When Thomas Dale took the reins at the Nassau County Police Department two years ago, he was hailed as the consummate law enforcement professional -- an honest cop and strong leader who would help shape the image of a department mired in controversy.
County officials at the time said Dale, now 64, would be a set of "fresh eyes" for the department, which a state watchdog had just slammed, citing sloppy handling of evidence at its now-shuttered crime lab.
At the time, the agency's internal affairs unit was also investigating a number of complaints, including whether cops rebelled against budget cuts by writing fewer traffic tickets.
Officials hoped Dale's tenure, which started in January 2012, would bolster the public's faith in the department. But he resigned from the $175,000-a-year post Thursday in the wake of yet another scandal.
"He is devastated, because he really believed in leading this department in a new direction," said one Nassau police official who is close to Dale. "It's a sad ending. A lot of people had very high hopes for him."
County Executive Edward Mangano had lured Dale, an Oyster Bay Town resident, away from his job as chief of personnel for the New York City Police Department. One of only eight three-star chiefs in the NYPD at the time, the Brooklyn-born Dale had said he would focus on ensuring that crime remained low in Nassau.
"Every officer will be out there to serve the community," he said at the time. "That's what we do for a living. We don't get paid to lock people up . . . We get paid to serve the community."
Dale could not be reached for comment Thursday.
NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and other law enforcement officials heaped praise on Dale following his hire by Nassau. After joining the NYPD in 1970 as a plainclothes officer, Dale served in the patrol and detective divisions, organized-crime control and the terrorist task force.
From 2003 to 2010, he commanded Patrol Borough Queens South, supervising eight precincts during a time when major crime declined 17 percent. He also developed the security plan for the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City and orchestrated initial patrol operations on Sept. 11, 2001, when he was one of the first senior law enforcement officials on the scene.
Dale also served in managerial positions during some of the most tumultuous times in recent NYPD history.
He was commanding officer of all southern Queens police commands when, in November 2006, five plainclothes officers -- two of them detectives working undercover -- fired 50 shots at three men, killing Sean Bell the morning of his wedding.
In 1999, he was deputy chief in charge of Bronx precincts when Amadou Diallo, an unarmed Guinean immigrant, was shot and killed by four plainclothes officers in the Soundview neighborhood.
Dale took over the top job in Nassau from Thomas Krumpter -- now the department's first deputy commissioner -- who had served as acting commissioner after the retirement of Lawrence Mulvey.
He arrived amid a prolonged dispute between the Nassau Police Benevolent Association and Mangano over wage and benefit cuts, overtime rules and precinct consolidations. An initial investigation by the department also identified some 160 officers, across all precincts, who willfully slowed their ticketing, and in some cases, halted it altogether.
Those issues continued to stir controversy during his tenure, as did criticism of the department over prior allegations of police misconduct -- from an off-duty officer threatening a Farmingdale bar employee with a loaded gun in April 2011 to another officer accused of spending at least 80 of his shifts with his mistresses while on duty.
Newsday in June revealed that internal affairs investigators had found that another off-duty officer unlawfully shot and beat an unarmed cabdriver in Huntington Station in 2011. Their report recommended 19 departmental charges for what it found to be 11 unlawful acts and eight departmental rules violations.
The police department "has suffered a series of setbacks related to a handful of employees over the last decade," Mangano said in a statement announcing Dale's resignation. "However, it is important to note the overwhelming majority of police officers serve our residents honorably."
When he accepted the commissioner job, Dale said he did not expect a difficult transition from city to suburban policing.
"A precinct looks like a precinct," he said.