New PTC police chief settles in

Tue, 04/22/2008 - 4:11pm
By: John Munford

Peachtree City’s new police chief has hit the ground running in his first official week in office.

Halifax C. “Skip” Clark said Monday that he’s been attending group briefings to learn about the how and why of department operations. He has also been holding “office hours” so he can meet one-on-one with all individual officers in the department. He also will do the same with individual non-sworn members of the administrative staff and even members of the auxiliary (volunteer) arm of the department.

Clark said he hopes to finish all the interviews within three or four weeks though he admits that’s an aggressive goal.

Clark is anticipating some changes, but he said the thoughts and opinions of each person in the department will count.

Clark said he’s been impressed with the quality of the entire police staff.

“Everyone here is dedicated to moving forward and making this place the best it can be,” Clark said. “... You’re only as good as your people and I have great people here. We have a very capable command staff and I’ve been impressed with everything I’ve seen so far.”

Some changes could be as simple as small details in the variety of uniform pants used. Others may involve personnel assignments and tasks, he added.

In some cases, he noted, things are done a certain way “because they’ve always been done that way.” Clark said he wants to create an opportunity to look at the processes to see of there’s a better way of doing them, or if the status quo really is the best way.

Clark said he wants any changes to be incremental and he wants to get the staff’s support throughout the process.

“I think they have a stake in this,” Clark said. “I want to hear what they have to say.”

It’s not just the staff that will have to change. Clark will, too, as he goes to training offered by the Georgia Police Academy for officers coming from other states.

Specifically, Clark noted, he needs to get up to speed on the differences between Georgia law and Florida law, where he was previously chief of police.

Clark said he looks forward to doing ride-alongs with his fellow officers not just in their patrol cars but also on the golf cart path, where the department has enhanced its presence in recent weeks through the use of an all-terrain vehicle.

That’s one area of law enforcement where Clark is ready to go: safe use of an ATV. He recently stumbled upon a card he received after completing an ATV patrol safety course for Juno Beach, Fla., where ATVs are used frequently for beach patrols.

“I think it’s from 1991,” Clark said of the certification card.

Clark said he’s gotten positive feedback about the ATV patrols, which encourage members of the community to interact more with officers and at times provide information they might not otherwise be willing to do in a phone call to police.

“People want to see us. It’s a sense of security,” Clark said.

Clark said he enjoyed the city’s home and garden show this weekend and has also been enjoying the cart path system in his down time. Between such events, sports leagues and other weekend activities, Clark said the city is just “abuzz” on the weekends.

Clark said he’s been pleased not just with the quality of his staff but also with the support the department receives from the community. He specifically cited the Citizens Emergency Response Training program, which has recently topped 200 graduates who are specially trained to help in large-scale emergency situations.

Clark said he is also looking forward to partnering with the Fayetteville and Tyrone police departments in addition to the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office.

Clark is going it solo in a rented apartment now while waiting for his two younger daughters to finish school and for the family to sell their Florida home, among other “loose ends to wrap up.” But the family plans to live in Peachtree City, and the extra time will allow them to specifically pick which part of town they like the most, Clark added.

Clark noted the hesitancy anyone experiences when they start a new job.

“You wonder what you’re going to walk into on the first day,” Clark said, adding so far that he’s been “very pleased,” with his new gig.

Clark’s annual salary is $98,956.20, according to city records.

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