Austin “A.C.” McLane, who served as Tampa’s police chief from 1987-91, died Friday at the age of 81.
McLane’s wife said he died at home in his native Georgia, surrounded by loved ones. The Tampa Police Department announced his death on Saturday of complications stemming from pancreatic cancer.
“The happiest, best part of his life was when he was serving as a police officer for the good folks of Tampa and his co-workers were his family,” his wife Davene said in a statement.
McLane had served for 28 years with the department when he became Tampa’s chief of police on May 26, 1987. He took charge of a department besieged by allegations of racism and brutality. In the five months prior to his hiring, white officers had shot and killed four Black men in confrontations.
That led to the abrupt retirement of former Chief Donald Newberger. In his years at the helm, McLane made it a priority to restore public trust in the department, especially with the Black community.
When he retired as chief in 1991 he told the Tampa Tribune that repairing the relationships between the police department and minority communities was his most important accomplishment.
“Community support can make or break a chief,” McLane said. “I’d like to think I earned the respect of the citizens out there by talking to them, listening and acting on their complaints.”
McLane retired as Tampa’s chief to become the police chief of the Augusta Police Department in Georgia. Then in 1996, voters approved consolidating the police department with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. McLane became a deputy chief in the new agency.
He also went on to become an associate professor in criminal justice and eventually retired for good.
McClane began his career at the Tampa Police Department in 1963. He spent much of his career fighting organized crime and became a nationally recognized expert in the field, according to news reports in 1990s.
“My thoughts and prayers are now with the entire McLane family as they navigate this time of mourning,” said a statement from current police Chief Brian Dugan, who joined the department when McLane was chief.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, a former police chief who also served under McLane, said in a statement that he served with “integrity, strength and honor.”
“Through his daily actions, he exemplified what it meant to serve and protect our community, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work for him as a young officer,” Castor said. “Chief McLane was a good man and humble leader, who left an indelible mark on our community.”