InsiderAdvantage: Savannah the Latest to Address Police Pay

Baker Owens

Friday, August 12th, 2022

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For those that have somehow missed it, crime is up. Nearly everywhere. Between the protests and anger that flowed following the killing of George Floyd, and the pandemic giving a lot of people all sorts of new time, crime rates are up across the country. Rates are still down significantly compared to the highs of the 1980s and early 1990s, but increasing crime whatever the baseline quickly becomes a major story. The pressure of the job is causing some police officers to possibly reconsider their vocations and giving cities headaches over recruitment. Inflation and competition are driving up wage demands and major cities are having to devote new budgets to their police force retention.

Atlanta announced pay hikes for their officers a couple months ago and now Savannah is following the trend. The city announced they will be increasing starting pay to $50,000, up from $44,000, and a starting salary of $48,000 for firefighters, also up from $44,000. The raises are part of a $4.3 investment in public safety in Savannah this year. Savannah’s public safety departments are now in the top 5 percent of cities across Georgia.

“This is an investment not only in those who we hope to add to our public safety team but also in making sure the folks on our team now are paid a wage commensurate with their commitment to our city,” said Joseph A. Melder, Savannah City Manager. “Remaining competitive in the market is key and so is showing those who serve our community that we appreciate the hard work they put in.”

In addition to the new salaries, Savannah is giving other perks to new and veteran officers, including:

  • $5,000 new hire sign-on bonus

  • 2-year $5,000 retention incentive

  • $7,500 lateral entry sign-on bonus

  • Lateral entry program for certified candidates to join SPD and be compensated based on years of prior law enforcement experience

  • Referral bonus program to compensate officers for referring new hires

“The investment that our city has made into Savannah’s public safety personnel is monumental,” said Lenny Gunther, Interim Chief of Police. “It’s no secret that currently it has become difficult to add to our rank and file. The Public Safety recruitment and retention pay adjustment has provided the Savannah Police Department with a great opportunity to recruit stellar candidates and retain the dedicated officers already on the force.”

The former police chief stepped down recently as he prepares to take on a U.S. Marshal nomination and Gunther was appointed as interim chief just a week ago. Gunther sat down with Savannah’s WTOC and talked about some of his priorities as the new chief. He noted a focus on deepening the relationship with the community, emphasizing the community needs to feel comfortable with the police to help them do their jobs and strengthen Savannah neighborhoods. Additionally, Gunther talked about taking a closer look at gang crime and repeat offenders. A great majority of crime comes from these groups and Gunther seems confident in his strategies.