Courier Staff Writer
By CHELSEA DAVIS
Courier staff writer
OTTUMWA — Thirty years after he stepped out as a patrol officer, Police Chief Jim Clark has announced his retirement from the Ottumwa Police Department.
Clark began his law enforcement career assigned to patrol, investigations and training on July 1, 1982.
He plans to start his retirement — which takes effect Feb. 23 — on a beach in Florida.
“We will be moving to Florida and living on the beach in Florida,” he told the Courier Thursday. “We decided that’s where we’d like to retire.”
When Clark started his career, he said it was the end of an era.
“It was the end of an era where a lot of people were hired because they were big or had just got out of the military,” he said. “I had two years’ experience from a small agency, and I think that’s how I got hired.”
Today, most of Ottumwa’s officers have college degrees. The department also puts a lot of time and money into training its officers.
“Years ago you gave a person a gun and a badge when they started, and they went out and learned on their own or from a senior officer,” he said. “Now they’re trained before they go out, or it’s been shown to be negligence if you put someone out there without being trained first.”
Over the years, the OPD has changed considerably, both in professionalism and technologically, he said.
“In the early ’80s, there was a lot of court cases that came about that changed a lot of the way law enforcement was conducted, such as how searches are conducted,” he said. “Miranda was clarified back then, too.”
Clark was promoted to sergeant in 1989 and served as supervisor of patrol, investigations, training and services. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1997 and served as professional standards division commander and services division commander. In July 2006, he was appointed acting chief of police and was made permanent chief of police in January 2007.
He said opening up the department to the community and making it more transparent has been one of his biggest achievements.
He also said starting the Citizens Police Academy, the OPD’s Facebook page, going to the Home and Garden Show and participating in the Oktoberfest parade has let the public see a different side of the department.
Clark helped obtain a $375,000 COPS Technology grant in 2010, which was used to install the downtown camera system as part of an overall crime prevention effort.
“Certainly, people have found that there is not the big concern as they first thought there was with the camera system,” he said. “The downtown camera system has been really beneficial in the number of prosecutions, and it’s helped reduce crime.”
For six years in a row, Clark said reported crime in Ottumwa has dropped. As he prepares his annual report this month regarding crime in Ottumwa in 2012, he said that trend continued.
Lt. Tom McAndrew will assume command as interim police chief until the position is filled permanently.
“His name will be presented to the City Council for their approval in an upcoming meeting,” Clark said.
The Civil Service Commission will then obtain a list of possible replacements, and once the list is certified, a person will be selected to be approved by the council.