Fort Smith’s police chief has been recognized as an exemplary public servant by a national magazine.
Police Chief Nathaniel Clark was recognized by American City & County magazine as the first runner-up in the 2018 Exemplary Public Servant of the Year Awards, according to a Fort Smith Police Department news release.
“I believe in public service. There is no greater profession than public service,” Clark is quoted as saying in the news release. “What attracted me to law enforcement was that I wanted to make a positive impact on the quality of life for all people. In my opinion, law enforcement is that profession where you can make the most positive impact on others.”
Clark has been Fort Smith’s police chief since January 2017, but has had a lengthy law enforcement career.
“Over his decades of public safety leadership, he has developed forward-thinking, progressive ideas regarding police work,” Aric Mitchell, the Police Department’s public information officer, said in the news release.
When Clark joined the department, his first order of business was to bridge the gap between the department and the community it served, according to the news release.
Clark worked to fulfill his goal by establishing the following outreach initiatives with community policing in mind: Coffee with the Chief, where community members interact with the police department in a non-confrontational way to get to know the officers and express concerns they might have; Ballin’ with the 5-0, a basketball game between police officers and the community; as well as Operation Inside Out, Operation Community First, Chief for the Day and an array of others.
Clark established two advisory boards – one for citizens and one for rank-and-file officers – to understand the needs of community members and officers, and better understand how those needs could be addressed, according to Mitchell.
“I’m a firm believer that the citizens that we serve are our most important asset,” Clark said in the news release. “Without the citizens, there would be no need for us. The citizens are doing us a favor by allowing us to serve them… I believe in enhanced communication with the community, focusing on providing a customer-friendly service delivery and providing a service that’s second to none in the nation.”
Clark has also championed greater diversity within the Police Department. Under Clark’s direction, the department has hired 14 females — a record number — over the past two years.
“In January 2018, Clark hired the most diverse group of new recruits in the department’s history. In August of 2018, he welcomed the first African-American female sworn officer,” Mitchell said.
American City & County describes Clark as “one of the most community-oriented law enforcement officers in the country.”
Clark, a Pine Bluff native, has worked in law enforcement for 31 years, including 10 years as either a police chief, assistant chief or deputy chief. He started his career in law enforcement as a Patrol Officer in Pine Bluff in 1982 and advanced to the rank of chief of the department in 2000, where he served for two years before retiring. From 2003 to 2008, he worked for the United States Department of Treasury and then as a criminal investigator for the Office of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office in Atlanta.
Clark has a Bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a Master’s degree in of public administration.