Open Invitation Part 2
My open invitation to City of Savannah employees to report shenanigans, abuse and malfeasance in office has received a tremendous response. Some of this stuff is incredible. Some of this stuff is actionable. And some of this stuff is being re-routed for process before it will be reported here.
One of the situations that has come to light involves the police department and I have a problem with criticizing Chief Lumpkin during this most difficult process of putting SCMPD back together. After all, I'm running on a Public Safety platform in which a top-notch police department is my top priority. Anything you read on this site is the direct result of input I receive with the kind cooperation of cops past and present, from the thin blue line on the front line all the way up to the big brass.
However, an issue has been brought to my attention by a new hire who recently quit the force after only six weeks on the job and I think it bears mention. The department is still struggling with new hires. SCMPD is still some 70-odd unfilled spaces under the old formula for manpower and by my calculations we're light 150 additional cops. Worse, I have it on the advice of a cop on my beat that there is a whole new wave of new hires that are lining up at the exit and scheduled to bolt any minute now. Pay remains one of the biggest issues. That new raise hasn't shown up yet on anybody's paycheck and council says we don't have the money to pay for the number of cops it will take to drastically reduce crime. Money is the issue here. But the manner in which the City is now requiring cops to help them source funding is causing new hires to quit the job.
The former police officer who came forward yesterday tells me that his first assignment as a patrol officer was to write tickets. He was given a daily quota and told to go out and not come back until his book was filled with the requisite number of citations.
In other words, he was told to look for money on the street instead of looking for trouble and after six weeks of being a bag man for city council he decided that there were more honorable ways to protect and serve than pick pockets. When city council received a batch of complaints over citations for petty offenses carrying a big fine, SCMPD was instructed to cut back on writing tickets. Some days this former officer was instructed not to write any tickets at all. Meanwhile, council was forced to find other sources of income during an election year when we're faced with a millage increase in order to cover their rampant spending and flagrant budgetary violations.
Nobody I know at SCMPD joined the force lately to write tickets. They joined the force in response to an urgent call to public service in rebuilding a department gutted by resignations and firings after sending its chief to prison. In her State of the City address this year, Mayor Jackson publicly admitted that "the situation at the police department was the result of our (council) having ignored it for years." But she said that with the hiring of Chief Lumpkin we were on the right track toward credibility. From all appearances, the Chief has been handcuffed by the City Manager since day one of his employment. If given what he needs, law enforcement veterans advise me that Lumpkin will do a great job. The problem is that he isn't given what he needs, especially money. And in order to get more money, cops are made to go out on the street and find it.
Taking your complaint before a judge is not likely to get you off or reduce the fine. Judges are in on the deal and are part of the scheme. I can tell you from personal experience that I received a parking violation and took it to Parking Services where I was told that I could not appeal it in court. A kangaroo hearing in a supervisor's office was the best I was going to get. It resulted in cutting the fine in half. But I could not get the ticket excused. Apparently, it was one of those days when the City Manager told Parking Services to squeeze citizens for as much as you can get.
The City of Savannah is in dire financial straits owing to fraud, abuse and corruption at every level. Transparency and Accountability are murky and unaccountable. Cash routinely disappears from department coffers before it can be deposited with the City and it is rare that we hear of someone being prosecuted for embezzlement. The cure for this problem is simple. The question remains, why aren't security measures in place? The answer is: the system is broken intentionally and those in power are gaming it for their own reward.
Voters have a choice in November: You can either sweep clean city hall or you can expect higher taxes along with higher crime. You've got all of 90 days to make up your mind. Govern yourself accordingly.