Investigation into police department stalls police chief search - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Police department probe stalls police chief search

Former Police Chief Willie Lovett Former Police Chief Willie Lovett
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

An independent agency is continuing their investigation into officers and Internal Affairs at the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Dept.

The probe has been ongoing for more than a month, and was expected to be wrapped up by now. However, city officials say they are not giving any deadlines to the agency handling the investigation. 

City Manager Stephanie Cutter told WTOC she an complete investigation and she is no rush to put a deadline on the agency working on this probe, even if it means holding off on the search for a new police chief until the matter is resolved. So far, there has been no action on the search process.

The investigation began last month, after Chief Willie Lovett abruptly retired. Officers Willet Williams and Malik Khallis and Capt. Cedric Phillips have since been placed on paid administrative leave and are under investigation for alleged misconduct. Internal affairs, also under investigation for how they handled the those cases.

Lovett's relationship with these officer's is also being questioned.

In the meantime, the city and the department have been slapped with numerous lawsuits and complaints, which could turn into full-blown lawsuits depending on the outcome of this investigation. The city also has the police chief search hanging in the balance. City spokesman Bret Bell says those issues are not their main concern right now.

"The only thing the city manager is concerned about is that this is a thorough and sound investigation and it goes exactly where it needs to go. We are not concerned about those external factors. She does not expect this to drag on and she is getting regular updates from the investigators," Bell said.

"Those external factors are important but they are not a part of this process," Bell said. 

Bell added they hoped the investigation would be wrapped up in two weeks, but admitted, they have said that before. He did say there were indications it was close to being finished.

Some are still anxious for the police chief search to begin.  

One of them is the now newly retired director of Crimestoppers, Demery Bishop. WTOC spoke to Bishop Friday at his retirement luncheon. He says after building up Crimestoppers for 14 years in Savannah, he felt the impact 912.234.2020 and the brand "Crimestoppers" had on the community and partnership with the police department, which was so effective, he would hope the new chief would be someone who embraces the crimestoppers mission.

"Crimestoppers is a very big player and provides a tremendous amount of information because that sharing of information ... absolutely critical today. Anyone who doesn't feel that Crimestoppers doesn't play a role in that manner in my opinion...is probably not chief material," Bishop told WTOC.

The search, and pending lawsuit, all seem to hinged on the outcome of the outside agency investigation into the police department. 

Copyright 2013 WTOC. All rights reserved.

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