By Bill Short
The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen has adopted a resolution approving Mark Dunbar as the city’s new police chief.
Board members took the action last Thursday night on a motion offered by Alderman Larry Dagen and seconded by Alderman Don Lowry. The motion was passed by a 5-2 vote, with Aldermen Bethany Huffman and Thomas McGhee absent.
A native of north Shelby County, Dunbar began his law enforcement career in 1983 as a patrol officer in the Millington Police Department. After joining the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office in 1985, he rose through the ranks to become the assistant chief deputy.
Dunbar was recommended for his new job by City Manager Ed Haley, who has known him “for many years.”
He pledged to make the police department “something to be proud of” that the community “trusts” even more than it currently does.
While noting that he believes in being “proactive instead of reactive,” Dunbar said he learned that while working under former sheriffs Bill Oldham and Mark Luttrell.
“I’m one of those people you can sit down and talk to,” he said. “If there’s a problem in town, I’m going to handle it.”
When Lowry expressed hope he will be “so proactive” that no problems occur, Dunbar said he will make that one of his “long-term goals.”
He cited his “good working relationship” with the Sheriff’s Office, because he helped to employ “about 70” of its current members.
“They say they’re going to help me, and I believe that,” he noted. “No matter who is the next sheriff, we’ll work together well.”
Alderman Frankie Dakin said he is “excited” to have “somebody from the community” coming back to police it. He noted that Millington recently conducted a “strategic planning process” in which its residents were asked what inspired them to live here.
“The No. 1 reason was public safety,” he said. “So, you’re coming into a good situation.”
But Dakin acknowledged that the police department has also experienced “issues” regarding employee retention, as well as policies and procedures. He asked how the new chief will address those areas during the next 12 months.
Dunbar said he has talked with Haley “at length” about some of them as long-term goals and objectives. And there are some things in his mind that he will ask the city manager to present to the board for consideration.
“Sometimes, what you pay for is what you get,” he noted. “There are areas that I think we can improve to work on that as well.”
Dunbar said he has been “extremely blessed” at the Sheriff’s Office to go through the ranks like he did.
“It took a lot of work, and I enjoy what I do in law enforcement,” he noted. “So, I’m well-versed on the policies and procedures.”
Although every policy and procedure must be examined for improvement, Dunbar said there are “some good people” in the police department who can help him with that.
In a related action, on a motion offered by Alderman Al Bell and seconded by Lowry, the board passed an ordinance on final reading that will change the management structure for the police and fire departments.
At its May 9, 2016 meeting, the board appointed Fire Chief Gary Graves to serve as director of a newly created Department of Public Safety, which included both police and fire services.
Graves’ new appointment came in the wake of Police Chief Arthur Heun’s resignation three days earlier.
Heun was appointed by the board in September 2015 to replace Frank Tennant, who resigned after $12,000 was discovered missing from the Property and Evidence Room of the police department.
When the board created the Public Safety Director position, it changed Title 6 of the Municipal Code to include the police and fire departments, because Millington did not have a police chief at that time.
Title 7 was repealed, and no provisions were subsequently adopted to replace it.
To “improve the quality of services” provided to residents, Haley recently recommended that a chief be named for the police department. Graves will continue to serve as Public Safety director, with duties beyond his existing ones as fire chief.
Because a Code amendment is necessary to allow this management structure to “function properly,” the new ordinance will repeal Title 6 and replace it with newly worded Titles 6 and 7.
It will become effective, and the new police chief will assume that office, on July 2 – the first workday of the 2018-19 fiscal year.
By Bill Short