Nathaniel Clark, the former police chief of Pine Bluff and deputy police chief of Albany, Georgia, has been hired as the new Fort Smith Police Chief, filling a position that has been vacant since former Chief Kevin Lindsey stepped down from the post in controversy last March.
For the past seven months, Major Dean Pitts has served as interim police chief. Clark is also the city’s first African-American hire since 1998, a particularly noteworthy topic considering the circumstances of the department’s hiring history and his immediate predecessor’s departure.
“Fort Smith was blessed with having so many qualified applicants for our next Police Chief; the decision was difficult, but based on my vision for the Police Department, the needs of our Police Department, and the desires of our community, Nathaniel Clark is the best choice,” Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken noted in a press release. “Clark understands that Policing in the 21st century needs strong community involvement, support for our Police Officers, and maintaining the assurance that Fort Smith as a safe and secure city.”
Clark, a native of Pine Bluff, Ark., has 31 years in law enforcement experience, including 10 years as chief, assistant chief, or deputy chief. Clark 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 then joined the City of Albany, Ga., Police Department as major and director of the Department’s Office of Professional Standards in 2008. He was named interim deputy chief of the department’s Uniform Bureau in December 2008, and then promoted to that position full time in December 2009. He was named deputy chief of the department’s Investigations Bureau three years later and served there until he retired from the department in March of this year.
Clark has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in of public administration. He is a graduate of many law enforcement leadership programs, including the Southern Police Institute’s Chief Executive Leadership Program, the Senior Management Institute for Police (SMIP), and the FBI’s National Academy.
“I am honored that the City and citizens of Fort Smith have asked me to serve as the next Police Chief,” Clark said. “I am looking forward to meeting as many of the citizens as I can and delivering quality Police services to the community. I feel it is an honor to serve.”
Clark will earn an annual salary of $98,000 to start. He was selected out of 33 applicant who responded to a national search conducted for the city by Strategic Government Resources, a Dallas-based firm that focuses on local government issues and recruiting local government executives.
Former Chief Lindsey stepped into the role in 2007. At that point, it had already been 12 years since the city hired an African-American officer. The department didn’t add any more during his tenure. Increased scrutiny and a discrimination lawsuit from the city’s only sworn African-American officer — Wendall Sampson Jr., who is only the 10th black officer hired in the city’s history — dogged his final days.
Lindsey was overheard and reported to city personnel in March for stating the only way more minorities would be part of the police force would be for white officers to wear blackface. He resigned shortly afterward.
Prior to the Clark hire, the FSPD claimed 164 sworn officers, only 0.6% of which were black in spite of the demographic’s 9% representation in city population per the 2010 U.S. Census count.