By T. Scott Boatright
City of Grambling Police Chief Tommy Clark has made his mark on not only the residents he protects, but also Lincoln Parish as well as the state of Louisiana as a whole.
Clark can usually be found protecting the city he’s called home for 19 years, but Wednesday night he was in Baton Rouge at a conference for the Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police, the organization he has served as president of over the past year.
“I really can’t say enough about what Chief Clark means to the city of Grambling,” said Grambling Mayor Edward Jones. “He does a wonderful job protecting this city, but he also does much more than that. The City Council and I know that if we need something important done, Chief Clark will take care of business and make it happen. He’s helped with our fire department, served as a liaison for us so often and done so much more.
“If you ask him, he’ll do whatever it is and make you feel confident it will be done right.”
Clark’s role as a deputy came after Clark served in the U.S. Marine Corps, where he learned his skills as a military policeman before joining the Caddo Sheriff’s Office, where his association with Grambling first began.
“I was assigned to the training office, so before I came to Grambling I trained a lot of law enforcement officers from Grambling and Lincoln Parish,” Clark said. “A lot of officers in north Louisiana I trained at the Training Academy. I was their drill sergeant.
“About half of my nine-year tenure with the (Caddo) Sheriff’s Office was with the Training Academy.”
Back then, even Clark couldn’t imagine how times could change and the kinds of circumstances law enforcement officers would face today.
Some of those changes have been beneficial.
“Technology-wise, things are much better now,” Clark said. “Because now with everyone having cell phones and video, it’s totally changed the game of law enforcement. And that’s part of what happens when questions come up about mistakes some law enforcement officers can make, too. Everything anyone does — law officers or criminals do — can be captured on video and put out on social media.”
Time has also changed circumstances Clark faces as Grambling’s police chief.
“Respect for authority, not necessarily just the police but authority overall, just doesn’t happen as much anymore,” Clark said. “You’ve got more violence and more crime. I think it’s because so many people are facing really tough times. We’re just like every other part of America right now.
“Times have changed, and those tough times have caused a lot of problems with alcohol and drugs, and those lead to other, bigger problems. You see a lot of people with mental issues right now. People who need to be are not being medicated or receiving any kind of counseling. I think we’re seeing that in the national news more and more.
“There are a lot of people out there who want to be and do better. But they’re not receiving the services, and don’t have the life skills or mental capacity to make that happen.”
Clark admits that when he took the job as police chief in February of 2013 he didn’t see himself becoming as involved in as many non-law enforcement duties as he has fulfilled for the city of Grambling — duties like serving as acting or de facto fire chief, helping improve ambulance services to the city, and many other administrative services he’s been asked to handle.
“I’ve just dealt with it all with the understanding that I’m a manager — I came here as a manager and a department head,” Clark said. “I follow policy, and I believe in getting the job done, so I figure the mayor and the council saw that in me. They realized that.
“And when you look across the board at (Grambling) department heads, I guess I’m the most stable department head they’ve had in a while. So when I do a good job in something, they decide to see what kind of impact I might have in another area, too. I think a big part of that was that any time another department was lacking, I guess I was easily accessible by the employees within that department. So they would just call me, and the mayor and council saw that.”
While Clark has built those relationships with his officers, he still believes leadership is key to keep things running correctly.
“It’s a tough job, it’s hard, and it’s not supposed to be easy,” Clark said. “But the officers know they’ve got to do the job. I know it’s tough and I know it’s rough and I know it’s hard, but that’s what we train. That’s why we get certified to do this job, and I expect them to do that job. I expect them to do no less.”
In the end, Clark said it’s about making his home a better place for all.
“Grambling is my life — my job is my life, so the city is my life,” Clark said. “All of Lincoln Parish is my life and my family. So I’m just going to keep on working hard to take care of it. That’s what I know and what I do.”
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