VOL. 132 | NO. 50 | Friday, March 10, 2017
Bonner, Lane Line Up Early for 2018 Sheriff’s Race
By Bill Dries
The Shelby County Democratic Party was disbanded last year, but there is already a Democratic contender for Shelby County sheriff in the 2018 elections.
Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Floyd Bonner Jr. is running for the Democratic nomination for sheriff in the 2018 county elections. Also campaigning is Dale Lane, director of the Shelby County Office of Preparedness, who ran for sheriff in 2010 and is running again in the Republican primary.
(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)
Floyd Bonner Jr. is the chief deputy to Republican Sheriff Bill Oldham, running with Oldham’s backing.
“I told him I’m going to have to run as a Democrat,” Bonner said. “That’s just the way it is. But look at what I’ve done for 37 years.”
Bonner has been with the sheriff’s office for those 37 years. He is the son of a Memphis police officer.
Meanwhile, former sheriff’s office SWAT Team commander Dale Lane, who now serves as director of the Shelby County Office of Preparedness, launched his effort for the Republican nomination at the Shelby County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Gala last month.
“I would love to be the only candidate in that field,” Lane said. “But I’m not sure that will play out. I’m going to work really hard. I spent a huge portion of my career – almost 26 years – at the sheriff’s office.”
Lane ran in the Republican primary for sheriff in 2010, the last time there was no incumbent seeking re-election to the position. Lane finished second to Oldham in a four-way contest, with Oldham going on to win the general election.
Oldham had been chief deputy to then-Sheriff Mark Luttrell before Luttrell was elected Shelby County mayor in 2010. Luttrell is endorsing Lane.
“Most people don’t know who the chief deputy is because the sheriff is out front and that is one of the things I would like to see changed,” Bonner said, talking of a more visible team approach.
Bonner said the sheriff’s role as jail keeper for the county is “paramount.”
“We are accredited, and I will make sure that we stay accredited,” he said. “We want to be a role model for the rest of the country.”
One challenge facing the next sheriff, Bonner said, is the extension of the department’s role as keepers of juvenile defendants in detention.
Both Luttrell, who was in federal and state corrections before he was elected sheriff, and Oldham, who was deputy Memphis Police director before becoming Luttrell’s chief deputy, focused much of their attention on the jail.
Lane was among the sheriff’s officers who forced their way into the Criminal Justice Center jail to restore order after a 1991 riot.
“I’ve seen the jail at its worst,” Lane said of the experience.
He praised the current status of the jail, which he recently toured in his role as an instructor.
“It was unbelievable – the culture change and how professional the staff was, how clean the facility was,” he said. “I’ve seen it at its best. We want to stay on top of that.”
Lane also wants to see the sheriff’s office continue and deepen its work on gang violence with a “prevention, intervention and suppression” approach.
“Give them a reason not to get in,” he said of the prevention prong, touting his experience on the old Metro Gang Unit. “We can tell people all day long how bad gangs are and where it’s going to lead you, but if you don’t have something for them, you might as well not even be talking.”
For those who stay with gangs after being offered alternatives, Lane said, “We have to do suppression to counter that.”
Bonner says that with the Memphis Police Department’s ranks below 2,000, the sheriff’s office has a role to play in the city.
“We’re averaging right now about two operations a week inside the city of Memphis,” he said. “We work according to where the police department asks us to work. We’re doing it on overtime right now.”
If elected, Bonner would be the first African-American elected sheriff in Shelby County history. Former Criminal Court Judge Otis Higgs was appointed the first black sheriff in 1990 following the death of Sheriff Jack Owens.
“I do understand the importance of being an African-American leader in law enforcement and being in front of the African-American community and talking about crime. It’s a big responsibility,” Bonner said, adding that his candidacy won’t be an appeal based on race.
He is also saying party labels shouldn’t be that much of a factor.
“Who knows a year and a half from now where we’ll be,” he said of the current national political divide. “I have never taken a police report where a person was a victim of a crime because they were a Democrat or a Republican. I would say don’t look at that. Look at the experience. Look at the knowledge that your next sheriff is bringing to the table.”
Experience is also the appeal Lane is making, citing his time with the sheriff’s office and his more recent tenure as head of preparedness for the county in the event of natural disasters or other unplanned emergencies.
“We have to be innovative, use technology,” Lane said. “We have to be growing, trying new things, and I’ve got a history of that throughout my career. My strength is building bridges and trying new things – not just trying them but having them succeed.”
Lane was a first-time candidate when he ran in 2010 and jumped in the race late, timing that he’s avoiding this time around.
“It definitely helped me,” he said of the experience in the hard-fought campaign. “It taught me to prioritize your resources. … It let me know just how important volunteers are. … I definitely learned the value of networking and building bridges within the community.”