Democrat Floyd Bonner Jr. and Republican Dale Lane emerged victorious in the May primaries for Shelby County Sheriff.
Bonner, chief deputy of the Sheriff’s office, boasts the endorsement of out-going Sheriff Bill Oldham, a Republican who is term limited.
Lane, director of the Shelby County Office of Preparedness, has been endorsed by all of the suburban mayors, three former county mayors, two retired Memphis Police Department directors and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.
Bonner and Lane will face off Thursday during a forum at the National Civil Rights Museum coordinated by the Memphis Branch NAACP. The New Tri-State Defender talked with both candidates in advance of their exchange, beginning with community concern regarding fatal shootings by law enforcement.
“Two very important components must be present to address this issue,” said Lane. “Transparency and accountability – public trust is vital. People must see that law enforcement is being transparent and holding its force accountable, if any wrongdoing has occurred.
Lane said 98 percent of officers are doing a great job.
“But it’s the corrupt two percent that makes it hard for everyone. …Any officer guilty of wrongdoing will be and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I’m ready to lead from the front.”
Bonner said the Sheriff’s department has made a great effort to be transparent and objective in the cases of officer-shootings.
“When officer-shootings take place, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation steps in to conduct a thorough investigation,” said Bonner. “We don’t touch it. The findings are submitted with a recommendation to prosecute or not to prosecute.
“These shootings are taken very seriously. We have extensive training so that officers can better handle high-stress situations where they must make split-second decisions.”
Bonner said diversity training has been put in place so that officers can be able to relate to everyone.
“I have worked very hard on diversity recruitment. Our force is more diversified that it has ever been. We have African-American males, African-American females, and Hispanic recruits training.
“When you have a diverse force in training, they are sitting next to someone of a different race and culture. This reinforces our commitment to building better community relations with minority communities,” Bonner said. “We believe this is a very effective strategy for addressing police shootings. We plan to continue building a diverse, well-trained force that reflects the diversity in our communities.”
Both candidates expressed concerned about violent crime, youth gang involvement, and improving relationships between all communities and law enforcement.
Lane challenged the present administration, citing a “needed change” to increase the level of public trust.
“The basic tenets of community policing go hand-in-hand – problem-solving and partnership-building,” he said. “In the last three years, we have seen double-digit increases in juvenile crime, violent crime among youth and the urgency to address these problems is not there. It’s just not there.”
Bonner stands by his record and his work as second in command.
“I grew up here in Memphis, right here in the Orange Mound community, he said. “We have a youth violence problem, and we have a gang problem, like most big cities. But we have implemented programs to address these issues.
“Kids act out in school and in their communities because they are not getting what they need in the home. Our school resource officer program has been operating in every middle and high school. We want to see the program expanded to the elementary schools, as well,” Bonner said.
“We have worked to engage young people, trying to establish good relations between law enforcement and the community. We want children to run to us, to trust our officers, not fear us and run away. Schools should be a refuge and a safe-haven for young people. We will continue to work on building trust.”