Portland Police Chief leaves for private sector job


September 24 — Portland Police Chief Frank Clark leaves his post to take up a post in the private sector.

Clark, who was named Portland’s chief in 2019, said in an email to city staff on Friday that he was not actively looking for a new position but had accepted a new job as “global manager. of corporate security “. He did not name the company.

He has spent the past 33 years in the public sector.

“It all fell into place pretty quickly,” Clark said in his email. “I’m disappointed the news got out before I did, as if things were going to work out, I had planned to meet many of you, one-on-one, before sending out a larger communication.”

The city said in a press release that Clark’s last day will be November 1 and Deputy Chief Heath Gorham will assume the role of interim chief from November 2.

“I would like to thank Chief Clark for his dedicated service to our community,” City Manager Jon Jennings said in a written statement. “Chief Clark has led the police service with the utmost professionalism and his long public service career has served Portland and South Portland extremely well.

“While I am sad to see Chef Clark go, I am delighted that he is bringing his expertise to his new business,” he added.

Portland Mayor Kate Snyder also responded to the news by congratulating Clark.

“I want to thank Chief Clark for his continued leadership and service to the City of Portland,” Snyder said in a statement. “His vast experience and commitment to constant improvement have served our community well. While Chief Clark will be missed, I look forward to Deputy Chief Heath Gorham’s interim leadership.

Clark’s announced exit is the latest in a series of high profile departures from the city. And it comes as the Portland Charter Commission contemplates major changes in the structure of local government, with members arguing for the elimination or demotion of the city manager position in favor of a stronger elected mayor and increased citizen surveillance of the police. At least one member pleaded for police funding.

Jennings, the city manager, has accepted a position as the new city manager in Clearwater, Florida. His last day should be November 1. Other departures include Portland HR Director Gina Tapp and Business Development Director Greg Mitchell. And public works director Chris Branch is on sick leave, according to the city.

Meanwhile, three city councilors – Nicholas Mavodones, Belinda Ray and Spencer Thibodeau – are not running for re-election this year. And on Monday, Thibodeau resigned his seat on the board to take a position in the US Department of Energy.

Clark was appointed chief of Portland in July 2019, after former chief Michael Sauschuck was appointed by Gov. Janet Mills as director of the Maine Department of Public Safety.

In a resignation letter sent to Jennings on Friday, Clark said it was an honor and a privilege to serve Portland and work alongside some of Maine’s top police officers.

“I appreciate your support for the department since my appointment and throughout what I believe has been the most difficult time for law enforcement and our communities in my nearly 33 years of public service,” Clark wrote.

Despite having faith in the current Portland Police staff, Clark said he was concerned about the ability of the department, and law enforcement in general, to recruit and retain officers and communications personnel in the current labor market and political climate.

“Lowering standards cannot be an option, so I encourage the city to continue to take proactive and incremental steps to attract, retain and train the most competent staff to fulfill these highly responsible and effective roles. crucial importance for the city, ”he said.

Prior to coming to Portland, Clark had been a lieutenant in the South Portland Police Department since 2005.

He began his career in South Portland in 1988 as a patroller, spent seven years as a narcotics officer with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, and was promoted to sergeant in 2002 after spending three years as a detective.

Clark’s short tenure in Portland was marked by national calls for police accountability over the murder of George Floyd, a black man, by the Minneapolis police, and by an opioid epidemic that has not made it worse during the pandemic. And in June 2020, the Portland Board of Education voted to remove police officers from public schools.

Within a year of arriving in Portland, Clark oversaw the police response to several Black Lives Matter protests. The Black Lives Matter movement was born in response to repeated and high profile incidents of extreme violence or death inflicted on black Americans by police or vigilantes.

A demonstration on June 5, 2020 brought together 500 to 1,000 protesters, officials said. Although generally peaceful, police from several different departments dressed in tactical gear sought to subdue nighttime crowds who refused to disperse by using pepper spray bullets. Several businesses have been broken into or damaged, and more than 20 people have been arrested, most of them for not dispersing. These charges were then dropped.

City council ordered an external review of the response. Consultant Frank Rudewicz of Clifton Larson Allen LLP ultimately determined that police respected the crowd’s First Amendment rights and exercised restraint as they were pelted with rocks and water bottles filled with urine.

An April report from the city’s racial equity steering committee, set up in the wake of last summer’s uprisings, included recommendations for police training, oversight and accountability in Portland. Recommendations included changing the way police respond to mental health crises, reducing patrols in minority neighborhoods in favor of supporting community safety programs, better selection of potential officers, better monitoring of police conduct. the police and a broader civilian oversight board.

Clark said in his email to city officials, which was sent shortly after 1 p.m. Friday, that he had accepted his new job “literally a few minutes ago.” He said his new job would be at a growing company with more than 5,000 employees around the world, where he will build and formalize new safety and security programs.

“While I wasn’t really looking for another job at the time this opportunity presented itself, after 33 years in the public sector, and knowing the strong team that exists here at 109, this seems like a good time to try something. both new and different, ”Clark wrote.

Editor Peter McGuire contributed to this story.

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