Our industry lost a great friend and collaborator in Assistant Chief Kevin Kolbye, who passed away on October 20 at the age of 63.
Chief Kolbye’s career spanned 40 years, during which he served on the Dallas PD, was a 28-year veteran of the FBI, and served more than seven years as assistant chief and interim chief of the Arlington, Texas Police Department.
In just three years with the Dallas PD, he distinguished himself as a member of the select SWAT Operator team. During his 28-year tenure as assistant agent-in-charge with the FBI, he excelled at managing global investigations in concert with the mission of the US Ambassador to Afghanistan and the US military. He served as the on-scene commander for investigative and intelligence missions in Libya, Central and South America, Africa, Scandinavian, and the Middle East. After retiring from his FBI service, he served the Arlington police department until his retirement in 2022.
His many awards included the FBI Director’s Award for Counterterrorism Excellence, the US Department of Justice Meritorious Service Award, and the Arlington Police Department Medal of Merit. Most recently, the House of Representatives of the 88th Texas Legislature honored him for his exemplary contributions to law enforcement and commended him for his instrumental role in the passage of HBA 2129. Known as the Kevin Kolbye Act, HBA 2129 authorizes a merchant to allow a person suspected of committing or attempting to commit theft to complete a theft education program in lieu of calling the police. The law took effect on September 1, 2023.
Tom Arigi noted that one of the many highlights of his tenure at Walmart was the opportunity to meet and work with Chief Kolbye. “I was so saddened to hear of the passing of such a great leader who, in my experience, has had a major impact on those fortunate enough to know, work, and collaborate with him.”
Reflecting on their work together, Tom noted that Chief Kolbye had “such an amazing background yet was so humble a leader.” He observed, “It’s rare that you find someone with the Chief’s ability to leverage his extensive experience yet lead in a way that is collaborative, constructive, and action-oriented.” Regarding Chief Kolbye’s legacy, Tom said he always took a shared approach to problem-solving and was a model of “how working together to solve common problems can encourage new ideas that have a lasting impact.” He went on to share that the Chief’s vision for the Arlington PD and Walmart partnership produced not only an eight-point game plan but also meaningful results and served as an award-winning model for Walmart to follow in other major metropolitan markets.
Many will remember Chief Kolbye as an outspoken proponent of police and retailer collaborations, especially at the local level. He was a key advocate for restorative justice-based efforts to address petty shoplifting outside of criminal justice. He helped put teeth in his local program by providing public law enforcement support. In 2018, Chief Kolbye was part of a first-of-its-kind panel discussion at the RILA AP Conference entitled “Shoplifters, ORC, Shrinking Justice, and Opioids: What’s a Retailer to Do?” Representing the police point of view, Chief Kolbye was part of a distinguished panel that included the Indiana State AG, a sitting California judge, a University of Chicago law professor, and Paul Jaeckle of Meijer.
Even after his retirement in 2022, Chief Kolbye joined Mike Lamb of Kroger in a presentation on building partnerships between law enforcement and retailers at last year’s APEX Conference.
“It is very difficult for me to express in words the deep respect and admiration I had for Kevin,” said Mike Lamb. “Whether through his unwavering and dedicated service to his country or his support of the LP industry over the years I knew him, Kevin was truly a man of great character and substance. He supported me professionally and personally in so many ways during my career. I know he fought with courage and tenacity during his battle with cancer as he and I spoke a few times during this terrible period. We all owe a debt of gratitude and thanks to this wonderful man. Rest in peace Kevin.”
Other memorial comments found here bear out his legacy as a generous mentor, effective teacher, and respected leader who embodied servant leadership.
RIP Chief Kolbye and Godspeed.