A recent streak of high-profile departures from Portland city government continued Sept. 24 when Police Chief Frank Clark announced his resignation, effective Nov. 1.
Clark, who has led the Police Department since September 2019, is taking a private-sector job as a corporate security director, according to an email he sent to city staff.
The departure of Clark, a former longtime South Portland police officer who was hired in September 2019 at an annual salary of almost $130,000, will follow the exits of City Manager Jon Jennings and former City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau. The city also has several department-head vacancies, including the economic development director and human resources director.
According to city spokesperson Jessica Grondin, Jennings – whose final day with the city is also Nov. 1 – has accepted Clark’s resignation. She said Assistant Police Chief Heath Gorham will serve as acting chief after Clark leaves.
Clark’s message to city staff said he was “presented with an unanticipated private sector opportunity as a director in the global corporate security field.” The Scarborough resident did not identify the company or indicate if he will be leaving Maine.
“Public service will always be at my core, but given this recent opportunity and offer, it feels like the right time to try something both different and new,” Clark said.
He said the time he spent as Portland police chief has “been the most challenging period for law enforcement and our communities” in his nearly 33 years of public service.
Clark’s tenure included contending with the coronavirus pandemic and several mass protests in the summer of 2020. One, part of a national response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, resulted in clashes between Portland police and protesters. Almost two dozen people were arrested, and a handful of Old Port storefronts were vandalized.
In the aftermath, there were some calls for the city to defund the police. But an independent investigation into the Police Department’s response determined officers responded appropriately.
In his resignation letter, Clark said he his concerns about the department’s ability to recruit and retain qualified applicants.
“I have the highest confidence in the current command staff, supervisors and employees, and believe that they will continue to move the department forward and serve this city extremely well,” he said. “That said, I remain concerned about the department’s (and our profession’s) ability to recruit and retain quality police officers and telecommunicators in the current market and climate.
“Lowering standards cannot be an option,” he continued, “so I encourage the city to continue to take proactive and progressive steps to attract, keep and train the highest caliber staff to fulfill these highly responsible and critically important roles for the city.”