Antique police vehicles united

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SAVANNAH, Ga. --- Police chiefs and county sheriffs past and present unveiled a fully restored 1947 Chatham County police car last week at metro police headquarters.

Chatham County Sheriff Al St. Lawrence presents Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Chief Michael Berkow with a restored 1947 Chatham County police vehicle (right) at the metropolitan police headquarters. The car joins an antique 1953 Savannah Police Department vehicle (left) that has been at the station.  Morris News Service
Morris News Service
Chatham County Sheriff Al St. Lawrence presents Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Chief Michael Berkow with a restored 1947 Chatham County police vehicle (right) at the metropolitan police headquarters. The car joins an antique 1953 Savannah Police Department vehicle (left) that has been at the station.

The antique cruiser, on display next to a 1953 Chevrolet city police car, symbolizes the 2005 merger of the Chatham County and the Savannah police departments.

The city car previously was parked alone at the station, but Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Chief Michael Berkow decided former county officers and staff were inadequately represented.

"It's a good thing -- a culmination of months' worth of work and effort, and now our history is truly reflected out there," Chief Berkow said. "We're trying to develop a common sense of culture, history and a common department as we go forward."

The ceremony gave Chief Berkow a chance to mark a milestone of his own. A year ago, he went to work as the department's new chief.

Chief Berkow said the vintage city car displayed alone was a "divisive symbol." Earlier this year, he removed it until a similar county car could be procured.

"There were about 150 people who came here from the county police who resented it," he said. "It didn't represent their history, and so they felt offended, I think.

"So I challenged my command staff to get a county car."

It was Chatham County Sheriff Al St. Lawrence who eventually located an old county patrol car in Bulloch County. A restoration project followed, including new tires, a paint job and extensive mechanical work.

"This is a proud day," said former Savannah Police Chief David Gellatly, now a Chatham County commissioner. "It's a proper thing that we have both departments represented right in front of this historic building."

The police headquarters building on Habersham Street was erected in 1869.

Officials said both cars are operable and can be used in weddings or parades.

"They both run, but you'll never see one of them trying to pull you over. I promise you that," Sheriff St. Lawrence said.


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