– Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023 –

Good morning. It’s Thursday and we’re covering important public safety stories for Coastal Georgia. We’re reporting on a former Glynn police chief’s bid to the Georgia supreme court, an influential federal judge considering retirement and Savannah Police making the case for more DUI enforcement.

Questions, comments or story ideas? Email me at jake.shore@thecurrentga.org. Also, wish me luck (or prayers) at my first marathon this weekend.

Ex-chief’s case heads to the high court

John Powell in 2017 at a law enforcement training weekend. Credit: Glynn County Police Department

Glynn County’s former police chief, John Powell, who faces criminal charges for allegedly ignoring misconduct within his ranks, will have his appeal heard by the Supreme Court of Georgia.

The Georgia Court of Appeals transferred Powell’s case to the state’s top court on Oct. 12. Powell’s attorney, Tom Withers, argued in an appeal that Powell’s charged offense, violation of oath of office, is unconstitutionally vague.

The Floridian and former Dothan, Ala., chief came to Glynn County in 2016 with the mission to institute broad reforms at the police department, but instead, he led the force into a steeper tailspin.

His first indictment came four days after the death of Ahmaud Arbery, an investigation he oversaw before being suspended. His second indictment in 2021 (replacing the first) accused him of failing to act after being notified of misconduct in Glynn County’s troubled drug unit. Prosecutors allege he ignored evidence of officers operating in other counties without authority and retaliating against another county’s sheriff investigator who criticized the Glynn drug unit’s actions. Powell has pleaded not guilty.

Read more here about the case in front of Georgia’s supreme court and the red flags uncovered before he was hired as Glynn County top cop.

Longtime federal judge weighs retirement

Senior U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr., of the Southern District of Georgia Credit: Federal Bar Association

Senior U.S. District Judge William T. Moore, Jr., 83, may retire soon after 29 years on the bench in the Southern District of Georgia.

In an email, Clerk of Court John Triplett confirmed the judge is considering retirement after The Current inquired about numerous cases being assigned away from Moore.

“He asked the Court to reassign his civil cases since they will remain active beyond his retirement date,” Triplett wrote in an email.

This does not mean a federal judicial vacancy will be created should Moore retire. When he moved to senior status in 2010 — which meant he semi-retired and took on fewer cases — former President Donald Trump selected his replacement in 2017, St. Simon’s attorney R. Stan Baker.

Moore was born in Bainbridge in 1940, though he worked at Savannah law firms and served as a top federal prosecutor for the Southern District. Former President Bill Clinton nominated Moore to the federal judicial post in 1994.

In 2010, Moore handled a controversial death penalty case, where he ruled against claims of innocence and wrongful prosecution brought by lawyers for security guard Troy Davis. Davis was accused of the 1989 killing of a police officer in Savannah. He was executed by lethal injection in 2011.

Moore will continue to handle his criminal case docket until a final decision on retirement is made, the clerk said.

More DUI enforcement

A Savannah police car parked outside the department’s headquarters on Habersham Street on Aug. 17, 2022.

The Savannah Police Department received approximately $342,000 in funds from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to increase enforcement of driving under the influence, speeding and distracted driving, according to the department’s grant application.

Over $100,000 will be used to purchase two new traffic enforcement cruisers, while Savannah will fund a third, the application stated. Approximately $211,000 will go towards payment for training and working hours for the new traffic enforcers.

Data in the application shows a large drop-off in DUI arrests and other traffic enforcement from 2020 to 2022. SPD data shows 730 arrests for DUI in 2020, then 660 in 2021 and 387 in 2022.

“These cost of enforcement activity hours that we are requesting to maintain is crucial to our continued efforts of removing impaired drivers off our roadways here in the City of Savannah. This will permit us is to have the continued manpower dedicated to the enforcement of impaired drivers in our jurisdiction,” the document stated.

Want to understand how Savannah Police makes the case for increasing DUI enforcement in the city? We posted the full application online to read.

Ex-Glynn County police chief’s case heads to Georgia Supreme Court

Former Glynn County Police Department Chief John Powell will have his appeal heard by Supreme Court of Georgia. He faces criminal charges for allegedly ignoring a host of misconduct in his agency’s drug unit.

Continue reading…

Judge gave Glynn cop who slept with informants clean record 

Former Glynn County Police drug investigator James Cassada got to end his probation six years early after a judge’s ruling in May. Now his record won’t show up in background checks.

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As trial approaches, indicted former Glynn County police chief’s history shows controversies

When John Powell took over in 2018 as Glynn County police chief, officials hoped he’d work to build community trust. Now he faces trial on charges stemming from an out-of-control narcotics unit.

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500 new police guns will help failing recruits pass academy, Savannah brass says

The Savannah Police Department and city leaders made misleading claims advocating for 500 new guns with red-dot sights. One reason was that the sights will help failing recruits pass the police academy.

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Savannah surpasses other police departments in solving murders. Why?

The snapshot of successful detective work, homicide clearance rates, are a mark of pride for the Savannah Police Department that has struggled in recent years with morale inside the force and its ability to foster community good will. While a high statistic, some experts and advocates say it doesn’t tell the whole story […]

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How to make city traffic safer? Remove left turns

Approximately 61% of all crashes that occur at intersections involve a left-hand turn. Algorithms help find solutions to worst crossings.

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Jake Shore covers public safety and the courts system in Savannah and Coastal Georgia. He is also a Report for America corps member. Email him at jake.shore@thecurrentga.org Prior to joining The Current,...