A timely interview! “No one hates a bad cop worse than a good one.” Collierville, TN Police Chief Dale Lane addresses recent protests in his town. Chief Lane explains how communication with protest organizers can help ensure peaceful, positive protests. Hear his views on defunding police, how policing should be about building trust and relationships, and much more in this impactful interview with Main and Mulberry’s Anna Bell.
AB: Hello Everyone and welcome to another episode of Main and Mulberry. I’m Anna Bell, and today I’m so thankful to have with us the town of Collierville Tennessee’s newest Police Chief, Chief Dale Lane. Chief Lane, thank you so much for making the time to be with us today. We’re really excited to talk with you.
DL: Well, thank you for the opportunity to be here. I’m excited to do it.
AB: Awesome. To kind of get right into things, you were appointed just a month ago in May of this year as the new Chief of Police for the town of Collierville, and what a time to take the job! I mean, can you start off by telling us a little bit about your background leading up to this position?
DL: Well, I was born right here in Shelby County. I’ve been here my entire life. I’m married to my best friend. We’ve been together for 33 years. We have three adult children, three grandchildren, and you know, so yeah, I’m excited. That’s probably the best part of my whole world. So.. But I actually started my law enforcement career in 1987 with the Millington Police Department. I worked out there for a couple of years, went to the Sheriff’s office in January of 89, spent almost 26 years with the Sheriff’s office. In 2014, I left to become the Director of the Shelby County Office of Preparedness, which is Homeland Security Emergency management. I retired from the County in October of 2014, did some consulting for the Memphis Area Transit Authority and then accepted a position as their Chief of Safety and Security, spent about a year there before coming here.
AB: Wow. It sounds like you have some experience to lean on during these times, and we definitely want to get to the recent hot topic issues here in just a minute. But aside from that, what are you putting your energy into initially, in the new job and what new plans might you have for the police department?
DL: Well, right now, my focus has been on doing an assessment of the overall department, looking at organizational structure, training, those kinds of things. But probably if I were to pick one thing that I’ve been focusing on the most is building relationships inside the department. I’ve started interviewing each officer. We give them about 15 minutes. I want them to have input in the new vision moving forward. And then also those relationships outside where I’ve been meeting with community leaders and anybody that’ll sit down and listen to me. So it’s.. I know moving forward a big part of having a whole community approach to reducing crime is going to be, to involve the entire community. So that’s what we’ve been focused on.
AB: That’s awesome. I know those relationships are really important. And especially for your staff, as officers, knowing that you’re available, I know that’s important.
DL: Right. Well, if you want to improve a culture, you’ve got to have the relationship. People need to know they can trust you and that you care. And that’s the thing that I’m trying to instill in each of them. And as I speak with them is to share my passion and what I want from them is to be problem solvers and partnership builders at every level. And if I want them to do it, then I have to model it. So that’s what we’ve been focused on.
AB: What is your passion Chief Lane?
DL: Oh, I have so many.. Probably the most important thing in my life is my faith in Christ. The second would be my family. Like I said, I’m married to my best friend and you know, she’s probably the most influential person in my life. But I found that, you know.. and then my third would be my community, which entails my job. And so.. but I’ve found that if I keep the main things, the main things, if I keep those first two things, right, then I can be the absolute very best I can be. You know, I was given the honor 33 plus years ago to enter public safety and it has been just a dream come true. I love getting up every day, coming in. And, so I’m passionate about the job, about helping people. And that’s what I want from our officers. I want them to look at every contact is an opportunity to make someone’s life better every day, be a problem solver and so far so good.
AB: Yeah. No, that’s great. I appreciate you painting the picture for us kind of a little about you for our listeners that might not have had the opportunity to get to know you yet. So, all right. So it is a rough time for police right now to be police, or a Police Chief. Given all the activity around, you know, the police brutality protests, what has the Collierrville Police Department had to prepare for, or do differently, in the last couple of weeks?
DL: Well, you know, one of the big things for us is to be aware of what’s going on nationally because you know, many times those things can happen right here. It is a tough time to, but it’s also a great opportunity for us to tell our story. What we don’t want to do is allow us to be painted with one broad brush. You know, those things that occurred in Minneapolis, were horrific. It was, you know, and not.. there’s no police officer that I know that would, except the actions that they have, and even the inactions of the officers involved in that. So we’ve had protests here, but it was an opportunity for us to tell our story, not just tell it, but we lived it. And so we want our community to see how, you know, that we actually care, you know, the cause is righteous. Now, some of the other things that fall out that we’ve seen around the country, the rioting, the looting, those are things that we can’t accept. I’m in lockstep with the cause that started this, but not the root of the looting and rioting.
AB: Yeah. I know there were two protests just last weekend at BooYa’s restaurant and the Town Square.You know, how did the police handle those protests? Were there any issues?
DL: Well, you know, we had to approach them in different ways. Initially the first one that we found out about was the one that was on the Town Square. And looking at the flyer that was posted, it was kind of posted anonymously. It had some inflammatory language in it. So we had to put in quite a few contingencies just in case. We saw some of the things that we’re seeing nationally. The ones at BooYa’s and then we also had one in Johnson park, what we did is I tried in all three of these, we were able to ultimately find out who the organizers were. I was able to meet with them ahead of time. We talked about the things that we wanted to accomplish together, and I made it clear to each one..Johnson park I did not get to meet with them, but the other two I did, and I was able to share my feelings on why we were there to begin with, to let them know that we were there to keep them safe and then request or let them know that they’re going to have to follow the law when they’re, when they’re protesting. And so it went really well. We had some counter protesters that showed up that made it a little challenging at one event, but it worked out. It was a chance for us to sell and to tell our story and they saw professional policing. And that’s what we want. We want people to know where we don’t, our job is not just to reduce crime, but to reduce fear, and there was a lot of fear that’s being generated out of this. So when you see a competent, fair, professional police department, it reduces fear.
AB: Yeah. It’s so nice to hear that you guys were able to have that open dialogue with one another prior to the protest. Do you think that had an impact?
DL: Oh, it absolutely did. One, they heard from me personally what my feelings were about it, so they knew that it wasn’t an adversarial relationship going in. And you know, and then also I was able, in one case I was able to highlight some of the problems that’s occurred elsewhere to ensure that we didn’t have that here. And we even had some, we had some situations probably not going to talk about here that were, that from an officer safety standpoint that were difficult to deal with. But overall I thought it was a great weekend for the Collierville Police Department, the town of Collierville because we demonstrated not only to our community, but, you know, with social media, you do it nationally, right, that we can stand, we can stand together and that those negative things don’t have to occur. So I was very excited about that.
AB: That’s wonderful. What’s your personal or professional stance on these protests regarding this issue? I mean, do you feel that they are warranted?
DL: I will always support the right to protest. I think that as long as it’s done in a lawful manner, I think for us as a law enforcement community, we have to be willing to be transparent, to be, to let people in and see, you know, a lot of the demands that, or a lot of the things that were being pushed out, the Collierville police departments already doing those things. It’s already part of our culture. It’s already part of our general orders. And so we don’t have to go back and add those things they’re already in place. So I’m always open for people that want to come in. I want to be the absolute very best that we can be. And so I’m not, I don’t think that I have all the answers. And so if somebody can tell us a better way for us to connect with our community, I’m all for that. What I’m not for is throwing rocks and bottles, breaking glass, stealing other people’s property. We had one man that was tragically murdered, his death should not turn into victimizing someone else. And so that’s what we were trying to prevent from happening here. A lot of the planning piece included, our law enforcement partners from across the region that came in to you know, to assist us. And so we’re very thankful for them as well.
AB: There’s been a lot in the news about defunding police departments or otherwise supplementing with community organizations. I’ve read that even before this, you actually want to focus on community policing. You mentioned that earlier problem solving and partnership building. Can you expand on this for us? And how does he plan on going about doing something like that?
DL: Well, um, those meetings with the officers is one way for me to, to let them know what those guiding principles are going to be. I don’t think it’s going to be a shock or surprise to anybody that’s watching this, that I’m not for defunding the police. What I’m for is integrating, our operations with the community as much as possible because we need to be working in lockstep, working together to make our community safer. We can’t wait till a tragic incident to build relationships, but you’ve got to know our heart before we get there. You’ve got to know that if we were to have a bad incident here, that we’ve already established those relationships and they say, no, that’s not part of their culture. And so that’s a big thing. And so one phrase that you should never hear a citizen of the town of Collierville should ever hear is the phrase “It’s not my job”. If you’re a problem solver and a partnership builder, whatever the request is, whatever the need is, it may not be criminal in nature, and it may not be part of the job. But our job is to find out whose job it is and make sure that we facilitate. And that begins that process of building trust and building relationships in the community. You know, cause that’d be honest, you, 33 years, a huge number of the calls that we make have nothing to do with criminal activity. A lot of them are quality of life issues and if it could be a broken street light, if the officer encounters that what I want them to do is be empowered to make that call. They don’t say, well, that’s not my job, cause I don’t change streetlights, but its your job to call MLGW and get it changed. So that’s what we’re talking about. Those types of issues. And I want them to get out of their cars. And right now we’re, we, we can’t do that because of COVID-19, but take every opportunity we can to be building relationships and building trust in the community, because ultimately what that does on future crime, if, if a citizen has that relationship and they have that trust, they’re more likely to give us information on those crimes to help us solve future crime.
AB: It sounds like you’re saying that the community and the police are really needing to connect and work together to make this a much better place. Right?
DL: That’s absolutely what I’m saying. Yeah. So yeah, absolutely.
AB: Can this type of community policing, you know, in your opinion, solve these issues that we’re dealing with today?
DL: I don’t know that we can totally solve it. But you know, what we have to do in the law enforcement profession to prevent incidents like this one, set the standard, let everybody know in the department, what the expectations are, make sure that we have the right policies and procedures in place to stop it. And then make sure that we have a culture that just will not stand for it. I saw a post on social media this past week that says that, “no one hates a bad cop worse than a good one.” And that’s so true. You know, and I look at it this way, I want, I don’t want there to be this “us versus them” mentality. And if we’re building relationships, we won’t have that. And you know, that’s, what’s been so refreshing coming in, is I’ve interviewed these officers. I just tell the people listening today, we have some of the finest professional police officers that I’ve been around here, young and seasoned, as well. And so I’m excited about the future because the sky’s the limit. What I want is them to be the very best we want to be the standard here in Collierville, and that’s what we’re going to be.
AB: To kind of wrap things up Chief Lane, I’d like to give you the floor. Is there a message that you’re willing to share with those in the community and our listeners today?
DL: I would just say, thank you for the opportunity to serve. It’s an honor to be here. And what I hope to do is just to get out and meet as many people in the town as we can. I want our officers doing that any way that we can support or help, whether it’s church, business, whatever we can do to come and be a part of, I want people to get to know us, know our hearts and our hearts to serve. And so if they want, they can reach out 457-2510.
AB: That’s right. You heard it here. You heard it here. Yeah. So those for those non-emergency related issues, make sure to call that number. Right.
DL: Right, right, right. Yeah. If you, if you need help immediately, it’s 9-1-1, but I’m talking about the community events.
AB: Absolutely. Chief Lane, we appreciate so much your time and your insight today. Thank you.
DL: No, thank you for the opportunity. We really appreciate what you do for Collierville/
AB: Until next time, I’m Anna Bell sending you all well wishes.