Savannah City Manager Stephanie Cutter today announced the selection of Joseph “Jack” Lumpkin as the next Chief of the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department. He is scheduled to begin November 9.
“Chief Lumpkin brings proven leadership that exhibits standards of excellence in policing and qualities that will serve all citizens of Savannah and Chatham County with the utmost respect while helping to ensure that our streets are safe,” City Manager Stephanie Cutter said.
The announcement comes as the City and County continue to work on a tentative agreement on a new SCMPD Intergovernmental Agreement. The City and County staff continue to work together to develop a final agreement for presentation to the City Council and County Commission as soon as possible.
“In light of the upcoming negotiations regarding the SCMPD Intergovernmental Agreement, I feel satisfied that Chief Lumpkin will work towards the best interest of both the City and the County,” County Manager Lee Smith said. “It is the intent of Chatham County to supply the best police services possible in the unincorporated areas of the county while supporting the overall efforts of the police chief to re-establish the trust and faith of the citizens and businesses of our community.”
Chief Lumpkin brings 43 years of law enforcement experience to the position, including 17 years as Chief of Athens-Clarke County, where he has developed a reputation as one of the top law enforcement professionals in the Southeast. He holds a master’s degree in public administration, and is a graduate of the prestigious FBI National Academy.
Those are the first few paragraphs of this morning’s press release — and an interesting few paragraphs they are. The prominence of the contentious negotiations about the decade-old police merger suggests that both city and county officials want to keep the combined force. As I noted in a previous post here, however, it’s not clear how much public support remains for the merger, especially in unincorporated Chatham County. (A number of smaller municipalities in the county have their own police forces, by the way.)
Lumpkin also comes in at a critical time for the SCMPD because of the recent fatal shooting by police of a handcuffed suspect, the legal woes of the former chief, general frustration with crime among the public, and reports of low morale among officers.
Lumpkin recently announced that he would be retiring from his current job in Athens no matter what. It’s obviously perfectly legal for Lumpkin to get a pension from one job while he works another, but the transition has raised a few eyebrows around town. On the other hand, maybe it takes someone with a second income to be interested in such a tough job here in Savannah, where the chief’s maximum salary is $145,000.
In addition to problems already noted, Lumpkin also takes over a police force with problematic staffing levels in a city that has long accepted pervasive street-level crime in certain neighborhoods and that is increasingly reliant on tourism and large-scale events.
Interestingly, Lumpkin’s selection was actually announced last night via Alderman Tony Thomas on his Facebook page. The post was shared only with friends, but since Thomas has about 2,600 friends, the news was widely disseminated last night and numerous outlets reported the choice before the official announcement.