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The man who has served as interim police chief for Cairo since December has been promoted to the role permanently. Giovannie Santos was named Tuesday as chief of the Cairo Police Department.
Cairo city manager Chris Addleton made the announcement, pointing out that Santos has worked for the police department since 1996, and has been promoted up the ranks throughout the years, serving the last five as an investigator and as interim chief since Dec. 4, 2019.
Addleton states, “He has demonstrated dedication, commitment, and professionalism in serving the City of Cairo. Please join me in congratulating Gio and my hope is that you will join me in supporting him as Cairo Police Chief as we strive to ‘serve and protect’ the citizens of Cairo.”
Santos, 45, says he hopes to maintain the trust and confidence of the community. “With my appointment as chief, my goal will always and above all else to be a service to the community and to continue making Cairo the special place it is. The Cairo Police Department is an excellent department filled with great people who really care about the community we serve,” he says.
Santos says he was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Puerto Rican immigrants who spoke little English when they arrived in the U.S. in the late 1960s, but had a strong work ethic that they instilled in their son.
After graduating from Franklin K. Lane High School in 1992, Santos joined the U.S. Army as an infantryman and says he left New York City for the first time in his life to go to Fort Benning, Georgia, where he was stationed for both the U.S. Army Infantry School and Airborne School.
He served one year with the 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment then was transferred to Fort Campbell, Kentucky where he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, 3rd Battalion, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, and attended Air Assault School.
While at Fort Campbell, he met his wife, Joy, and the two were married in 1994. That same year, Santos’ military term came to an end, and the couple moved to Brooklyn.
“In 1995, we had our only child, Savannah Santos. We wanted to raise her away from big city life and ended up in Cairo, Georgia, due to my wife’s family living near the area,” the new chief explains.
The next year, he was hired on at C.P.D., the first Hispanic officer to work there. Santos was promoted to sergeant in 1998, to lieutenant in 2005, and to investigator in 2014.
Santos was named interim chief last December after the abrupt retirement of Keith Sandefur, who left the office after the Georgia Bureau of Investigation charged him with two felony counts of theft by conversion. Less than three weeks later, Sandefur died of a single gunshot wound while at a local gun range; the shooting was ruled self-inflicted by G.B.I. medical examiners.
“As interim chief, my goal was to help this department get through some of the toughest times we have ever had to experience,” Santos says. “I have been humbled by the amount of support I have gotten from not only members within the Cairo Police Department, but also the community.”
Santos and his wife reside in Whigham, and their daughter, now 24, lives in Moultrie.