Nadis Carlisle was a Decatur police detective working on a complicated murder investigation in 1995 that couldn’t be rushed.
Ken Collier, then Carlisle’s captain in the Criminal Investigation Division, was understanding.
“He turned me loose, and let me do my thing and trusted me to find a resolution,” Carlisle said of a case that eventually resulted in several convictions. “If I didn’t spend as much time on it as I did, it might not have been solved. So he had confidence in me.”
Kenneth Dwight "Ken" Collier, who died Tuesday at age 71, was remembered by Carlisle and other former colleagues this week for being tough but fair during a 40-year career with the Decatur Police Department that ended in 2010 when he retired as chief.
“He was always a great leader in our community and was well thought of,” said Morgan County Probate Judge Greg Cain, who worked for the Decatur Police Department 16 years although never directly under Collier.
Carlisle said, "He made sure you did what you were supposed to do, which was by the book."
A 1966 Decatur High graduate, Collier served four years in the Marine Corps, including a 13-month tour in Vietnam, before beginning his police career in 1970 at the urging of a friend.
“It didn’t take me long to realize that’s what I wanted to do,” Collier said in a 2010 interview. “It was never anything I planned to do, but it very quickly became a passion.”
Carlisle, himself a military veteran, had been with the department two years when Collier selected him for Criminal Investigation in 1992 and made him the first black detective in the city’s history. For the next 18 years, Carlisle worked under Collier. When Collier became chief, Carlisle succeeded him as captain of CID..
After Carlisle served a tour of duty in Iraq in 2003-04, he made it back to the Police Department just in time for a promotion cycle that had mysteriously been delayed so he’d be eligible to compete for a lieutenant’s post.
“I came back and I got the position,” Carlisle said. “He (Collier) never said he held it up, but that’s what all the other people told me.
“I owe my career to him. He didn’t do me any favors. He gave me opportunities. He meant a lot to me. He’s certainly going to be missed.”
Carlisle retired as Decatur's Criminal Investigation Division commander in December 2016 and now serves as chief of police and director of emergency preparedness at Alabama A&M. He said that in addition to giving him time to work on the Fernando Acklin slaying in 1995, Collier also let him pursue leads after Nancy Carol Stevens of Decatur was found strangled to death on a roadside near Tupelo, Mississippi, on Aug. 8, 2005.
Carlisle wanted to rule out that Stevens wasn’t killed by somebody locally and her body taken to Mississippi.
“He left me alone and let me work on that one, too, for the family,” Carlisle said. “That meant a lot to the family.”
The family finally got closure in that case late last year. Authorities in Lee County, Mississippi, said that Samuel Little, who was then 78, had confessed to killing Stevens and being involved in more than 90 deaths dating back to 1970.
When Collier retired, he was succeeded by Ed Taylor, who had worked with him in the department for 35 years.
“I would definitely go through a door with him, and I have gone through doors with him,” Taylor said of Collier in 2010. “He is a cop’s cop and will be missed.”
That was true upon Collier’s retirement and again this week.
A memorial service for Collier will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at Shelton Funeral Home’s chapel.