A Community Effort: CPD chief Dale Lane wins 2021 Man of the Year

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By Aarron Fleming

On Sep. 23, roughly one year after being elected to lead the Collierville Police Department, Dale Lane was suddenly faced with one of the biggest challenges of his decades long career in public safety.

Uk Thang, a former Kroger employee who worked for a third-party vendor inside of the store, walked into the Kroger on New Byhalia Rd. in Collierville, and shot 15 innocent shoppers, killing one as well as himself in the rampage.

“That day we saw the worst of humanity in the gunman but we’ve also since then, we’ve seen the absolute best of the community,” he said.

Lane began his career in 1987 when he signed on with the Millington Police Department. After a few years, he left the suburbs for the big city and joined the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office where he would spend the next 26 years of his life climbing the law enforcement ladder.

He rose through the ranks eventually making chief inspector and then was offered a job with the Luttrell administration in 2014 to serve as the director of Homeland Security Emergency Management. Lane left his position four years later and officially retired from Shelby County government.

Despite his retirement, he accepted an offer to conduct security consulting for the Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA) which turned into a yearlong stint as its chief of safety and security. Lane left MATA last year after beating 26 other applicants to be selected to replace former Collierville police chief, David Tilner.

“I saw the opening, and my wife and I prayed about it. We decided to put our name in, so we went through the process, and ultimately, were blessed to be accepted,” he said.

Before being elected, Lane also had two unsuccessful runs for Shelby County sheriff. The last time was in 2018 when he was beaten by former boss and current Shelby County sheriff, Floyd Bonner Jr.

Lane’s attempts at holding public office may have not panned out, but he said that his time with the sheriff’s office allowed him to learn about the community he now represents and see its passion for public safety.

“It was when the opportunity opened up, I had prepared myself my entire career for this type of position. It was opportunity to get to go to my dream job,” he said.

One of the main things that Lane has made a priority as chief is continuing the community policing efforts that CPD started before him.

He said that community policing has two facets: problem solving and partnership building.

“When we build trust in the community, it reduces fear because they have confidence in who we are and our abilities to do our job,” he said.

Without a crime prevention or community policing unit, Lane said that every CPD officer is a community police officer. He also credited that mindset as a saving grace on the fateful day of the shooting that made it much better than it certainly could have been.

From CPD’s quick response to the medical treatment provided by the Collierville Fire Department to the CPD chaplains and local churches that provided comfort and support to even the restaurants that delivered food, Lane said that because of the cohesive effort of the entire community in the wake of the shooting, Sep. 23 was not just one of the biggest challenges in his career but also one of his proudest accomplishments.

“Yes, that was the most difficult time in my career, but it’s also been one of the more rewarding just because of seeing how people come together to help people. Neighbors helping neighbors,” he said.

Lane said that moving forward, his goal is to build on those efforts and continue adding the best officers that he can to the Collierville’s police force.

“I’m proud of our team, I’m proud of their accomplishments, I’m proud of what they did on Sept. 23, but I’m proud of what they do every day,” he said, “When they’re stopping people and changing their flat tires, when they’re helping people that are stranded, they’re going out of their way dealing with things that have absolutely nothing to do with enforcing the law but have everything to do with quality of life.”

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