New Conway Police Chief Dale Long arrived at 6:45 a.m. for his first day in charge of the department but was locked out of his new workspace. It wasn't until someone asked what he was doing in his sergeant’s office that Long admitted the problem.
"I don't have a key to the office yet," Long recalled saying.
He eventually got into his new office and jokingly said he spent a couple of minutes sitting in the chief's chair. The day wasn't for sitting around. Long described it as a "whirlwind." Addressing the officers and meeting various groups.
There wasn't an opportunity to change his police badge to the one that reads "chief."
Chief of his hometown police agency, that is. Long is a 1983 Conway High graduate and his love of the community quickly shows. On police topics, Long speaks for minutes about issues and the future he sees for Conway Police. Long details his experiences growing up in his hometown, working with the agency and the community.
"This is my city," Long said. "I want to see my community thriving."
Long replaced Chief Reggie Gosnell, who spent more than 10 years as chief. Gosnell retired at the end of 2017, and Capt. Tammy Carter served as interim chief.
The chief position comes with an entry-level salary of $74,395, according to the city's job posting. The department has around 50 officers.
Long has a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies from Coastal Carolina University and an associate degree in criminal justice from Horry-Georgetown Technical College.
"He has exhibited the characteristics we’re looking for in a chief," said City Administrator Adam Emrick. "I think he’s going to do great. He’s been with the city and county, and private, so I think he’s covered the gamut."
Long started his career as a patrolman with Horry County Police in 1986, according to his job application. In 1996, he left to serve as an investigator with the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s office. He retired from that job in 2006, and began working as a security officer at Beach First National Bank.
A job Long says he lost after new management bought the bank. He returned to his roots in law enforcement, joining Conway Police as a patrolman.
"This is what I know. This is what I love," Long said. "This is what I feel is my calling in life."
When he joined Conway, he had been away from policing so long he had to complete the police academy again, this time as the oldest participant in his class. Long was promoted to sergeant for the detectives before being named chief. While he talked about policing being his calling, it's not his entire life.
A wife, three children — two of whom serve in the military — and coaching rec-league sports are some of Long's outside interests. Long also highlighted his workout group the F3s. The Fs — standing for Fitness, fellowship and faith — is a prayer-led regime.
Long has completed 24-hour adventure runs, which push anyone's limits. The race features running, mountain biking and navigating through the course. While he completed one solo, he quickly states his preference for team runs. He notes that he prefers not always to be the fastest team, but the best collective group.
It's that team aspect that easily spotted in his hopes for Conway police. Long quickly says that there is a good foundation at the department, but aspects can be better.
Conway Police can improve on deploying resources based on maps that show when and where crimes occur, Long said.
Long also spoke about community policing and the need to build relationships with residents of Conway. He spoke of the value of that interaction and his commitment to the community.
"I want to see our officers invest themselves that same way," Long said.
He also takes the reins as budgets are being finalized and Long noted he is jumping into the middle of that process. Conway Police pay lags behind other area agencies, Long said. But, they are hoping to improve and not just for new hires, but to recognize people who remain with the department for years.
The passion for law enforcement, Conway and the chief's role exudes from Long as he speaks confidently about his hopes for the department. He provides minute-long answers on every police issue. It isn't until he's asked if he had a moment to catch his breath on Day 1 that Long has a chance to do just that. Maybe, the first time since he, finally, unlocked his office.
"No," Long bluntly says with a smile, "and that's the shortest answer you'll get from me."