© 2024 WKNO FM
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Republican Sheriff Leaves, Creates A Quagmire Of Republican Candidates

By Eleanor Boudreau


Memphis, TN – The current sheriff, Republican Mark Luttrell, has thrown his hat into the County Mayor's race. There are four candidates in the Republican primary for Shelby County Sheriff, making it the largest Republican contest this primary election.

All the candidates for sheriff praise Luttrell for getting Shelby County's jails national accreditation, and say they will maintain that accreditation.

All the Republican candidates are also fans of Luttrell's use of data driven policing.

And all four of the Republican candidates have worked in the sheriff's office--under Luttrell.

This is a primary where an endorsement from the current sheriff would mean a lot, but Luttrell isn't endorsing and that has created a quagmire where all the Republican candidates say it's their special brand of experience that best qualifies them to take up the Luttrell mantel.

Bill Oldham is currently Luttrell's Chief Deputy, hand-picked for that position by Luttrell. "His belief in me is endorsement enough," Oldham said.

James Coleman is the Chief Jailer with the sheriff's office. Other than Luttrell he has the most direct responsibility for turning the jail around. Coleman has worked in jails in New Jersey, Georgia, and Texas, and at the National Institute of Corrections Academy in Boulder, Colorado. "My experience is so vast, my training has been so complete that I feel I am the best candidate to step from where I am to the Sheriff's Department," Coleman said.

Coleman is the only candidate without beat-cop experience. He says, "I think Mark Luttrell proved you don't have to work on the street to be sheriff and to be a good sheriff."

Dale Lane is the Commander of the Homeland Security Division of sheriff's office, and used to be a part of the Metro Gang Unit before it disbanded. The gang Unit partnered Memphis police officers with Shelby County sheriff's deputies. Lane wants to revive it with a twist, "That vision needs to be expanded to include state, local, and federal officers as well," Lane said.

Lane likes to point out that he is the only candidate in the Republican primary with a master's degree. Coleman has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. Neither Oldham nor Simmons has a college diploma. Simmons says, "I know a lot of people that's got college educations that couldn't get across the street."

Simmons retired form the Shelby County Sheriff's Department in 2007, and is currently an Alderman for the City of Bartlett. When educating kids about crime Simmons said, "We need to get on back to near the first grade."

The last day for early voting in the primary is Thursday. Election day is Tuesday, May 4th. For more information on how to vote go to the Shelby County Election Commission website.