October 27, 2022

Screenshot of new Savannah video analysis technology

Police surveillance, analysis

Detectives with the Savannah Police Department will soon be able to identify suspects or persons of interest by clothing, their license plates, vehicle type and color with a new video surveillance and analysis program.

The department’s contract with Israel-based, BriefCam Ltd., for 100 new cameras and its software was approved by city council last month with little fanfare. Police officials say BriefCam will make investigations more efficient and improve public safety.

An ACLU of Georgia attorney expressed concern about how the program will be used by investigators and about Savannah Police’s lack of transparency regarding where the new cameras will be placed.

In response to requests by The Current, Savannah Police said it was unable to make Assistant Chief Robert Gavin, who spearheaded the project, available for an interview due to his busy schedule. The Current sent detailed questions via email and received responses this month. Read here for Savannah Police’s answers, how BriefCam is intended to work, and concerns from the ACLU of Georgia in our new story.

Saudi Arai Lee (left) and Savannah Police Officer Ernest Ferguson (right)

Savannah officer fired

Before moving on from Savannah Police, it’s important to note some news we learned this week.

Savannah Police fired Officer Ernest Ferguson on Oct. 20 for an incident “unrelated to the officer-involved shooting investigation,” according to a spokesperson. The news was first reported by the Savannah Morning News.

This summer, Ferguson shot and killed a 31-year-old Savannah man in the historically Black neighborhood, Carver Village. The June 24 shooting was the culmination of a troubling streak of officer shootings in the city, an embattled police chief’s expected departure, and increased tensions between Black residents and the police department.

The Current first brought to light Ferguson’s extensive use-of-force past as a prison guard. In the weeks after, we kept on the story, writing about how Savannah Police missed Ferguson’s disciplinary history and how the warden of Coastal State Prison documented concerns about Ferguson’s behavior.

Police car

‘Crime rates’ get political

It’s a political season and that means statistics about crime are being thrown around left and right (pun intended).

That includes Republican candidates like Gov. Brian Kemp, nominee for Senate Herschel Walker, and Coastal Georgia Rep. Buddy Carter who have made rising crime part of their campaign platforms.

Regardless of political affiliation, Undercurrent readers’ ears should perk up when they hear the words “crime rate” from a politician.

Those readers should ask themselves the following questions:

  • What do they mean by “crime”?
  • What are the “up” or “down” comparisons in reference to?
  • What location or area is being examined?

These questions and why an increase in crime actually depends on your timeframe, according to a criminologist writing for The Conversation.

Have a question, comment, or story idea? Email me at jakeshore.thecurrent@gmail.com.

What to know: New Savannah Police technology can ID suspects by clothes, license plates

Savannah Police say the BriefCam software will speed up investigations by identifying suspects faster. An ACLU lawyer warns about implicit biases regarding technology potentially creating an overreliance by detectives on BriefCam.

Continue reading…

Messy vetting process kept Savannah officer’s disciplinary history hidden when hired

Officer Ernest Ferguson had a long disciplinary record as a prison guard An ex-supervisor hid that fact when he was seeking work with Savannah police.

Continue reading…

Republicans say crime is on the rise – what is the crime rate and what does it mean?

With political rhetoric saying crime is rising, it’s important to define what U.S. crime rates actually are, specify what crimes politicians are referring to, and verify how accurate those numbers are.

Continue reading…

Support non-partisan, solutions-based investigative journalism without bias, fear or favor on issues affecting Savannah and Coastal Georgia.

Jake Shore covers public safety and the courts system in Savannah and Coastal Georgia. He is also a Report for America corps member. Prior to joining The Current, Jake worked for the Island Packet and...