Clay Community School Corp. is establishing its own police department, and Josh Clarke was hired earlier this month as police chief.
Clarke most recently served as the chief deputy for the Clay County Sheriff’s Department.
Superintendent Jeff Fritz said the primary reason for a district police department is “the safety of our students and staff. School safety is our top priority today and there’s a lot going on around the country and around the country.”
For several years, the district has been working with a company called LawMan Security and Consulting. The district has a contract with LawMan, which provides the school system with school resource officers.
“They’re not our employees, so with our police department, they would become school employees, providing more consistency in terms of our expectations, the hours they’re going to serve, their responsibilities and personnel issues,” Fritz said. “This gives us more control over school safety.”
Clarke, who has already begun his new duties, has completed the paperwork and certifications that must be submitted to the state for the district to operate its police department. “He hit the ground running,” Fritz said.
The district plans to work gradually to build its police department, Fritz said. Clark noted that he has overseen the district’s LawMan program in terms of programming.
Clark said he was at a point in his career where he was able to retire from the sheriff’s department and was looking for another opportunity. Serving as the school district’s police chief “fell perfectly,” he said. “I have been actively involved with the schools and have been in contact with the SRO program.”
He also coaches football and baseball and has children in the school system.
“I have enjoyed working with the staff and students in the past. I thought it would be the right role for me to bring my knowledge and experience from the sheriff’s office to start creating a new police department,” Clark said.
He will build the new department from the ground up. He is working on issues such as policies and job descriptions and hopes to go before the school board next month to get approval to hire officers for the new department.
“It will be a step-by-step program to build a full-strength department,” he said.
While the district has budgeted for the new department, it also hopes to secure grants and federal funding to help fund it, officials said.
The plan is to have a police officer in every building, Clark said. But their task will go beyond security. “We want to be a role model and interact with the youth and participate in everyday school activities,” he said.