Savannah leaders want more community input in search for new police chief

SAVANNAH — The City of Savannah will soon launch a public engagement process as part of the search for its next police chief.

This process will include focus groups and surveys to assist in formulating what our community’s needs and expectations are for this role, and community involvement in interviews to assess how candidates meet those community needs.  

“Understanding what our community wants and needs in our next Chief of Police is critical, which is why we are prioritizing community engagement at the outset of this formal process,” said City Manager Joseph A. Melder. “I’m confident that through robust community and stakeholder engagement, and a thorough assessment process, and with the expertise of a nationally recognized leader in executive law enforcement recruitment, we will find the right person to lead the Savannah Police Department.”

Melder has engaged the Police Executive Research Forum, a national leader in police research and a provider of police executive search services, to assist in the management of the recruitment process. Most recently, PERF led the search for the newly installed Chief of Police for the U.S. Capitol Police Department.     

To better understand the community’s needs and expectations for its next police chief, the city will hold focus group discussions throughout August with a broad and diverse set of community partners and stakeholders, including city council, police department personnel and other law enforcement leaders, neighborhood association leaders, faith-based community leaders, business leaders, media, youth, and community leaders. 

In addition, the city has developed a survey that will assist in gathering input from the community at-large about what traits, expertise and experiences matter most to our residents for our next Chief of Police, along with what priorities the police department should focus on in the next year. This survey will be available online soon.

A public engagement report will be developed from feedback and be used to formulate the search criteria for our next chief. The city will use these criteria to identify and recruit a pool of qualified candidates that reflect the needs of the city and the police department. 

Before the interview process begins, the city manager will appoint an advisory panel, made up of a diverse group of stakeholders, that will participate in interviews and provide direct feedback on candidates as the city moves through the process. 

The recruitment process is expected to be finalized by December of this year, however the goal in this recruitment process is to hire the best Chief of Police for Savannah, with candidates undergoing a multi-step screening process, interview panels, and a final selection by the city manager.

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