A long-serving lieutenant with the South Portland police department has been chosen to be Portland’s new police chief, the city said Thursday.

Frank Clark accepted the position Thursday, Portland’s city manager said in a written statement. Clark, who will earn $129,636 annually, must be confirmed by the City Council, which likely will take up his appointment in September.

Portland’s interim chief, Vern Malloch, was the other finalist for the position and on Wednesday he gave two weeks’ notice that he would be leaving the department, city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said.

“I had made the bittersweet decision many months ago that I would retire if I was not selected for the permanent chief’s position,” Malloch said in an email Thursday night. “I am certainly disappointed, but I leave after 35 great years.”

Malloch said he wanted it to be clear that his decision to leave the department was made months ago and “is not a reflection on Frank Clark.”

“I have tremendous respect and professional admiration for him. I am certain that we would have worked well together,” Malloch said in his email. “While I am of course disappointed that I was not selected, I believe the department will be in very capable hands.”

No decision has been made about who will lead the department during the month or so after Malloch retires and before Clark’s expected appointment in September, Grondin said.

Clark, a 51-year-old resident of Scarborough, has served since 2005 as a lieutenant overseeing professional standards for South Portland. He was responsible for developing police policies and successfully shepherded the department through its first law enforcement accreditation process. Along the way, he has served in or supervised nearly every type of police position at the department, according to his resume.

“Throughout the interview process, Frank demonstrated a commitment to developing a 21st-century department looking at all ways to innovate and create a more efficient work environment for our highly dedicated and professional set of officers,” City Manager Jon Jennings said.

“The well-being of our community and police department employees was at the forefront of my decision-making process,” he said. “I know Frank will work collaboratively with the entire department to provide the training and equipment that will ensure the safety of our officers and the broader community.”

In a brief conversation with reporters following the announcement, Clark said he is eager to meet and get to know the men and women of the department when he takes the helm in September.

Clark said he will continue efforts to recruit and retain a diverse crop of new police officers who reflect the community’s changing demographics, while continuing to prioritize community policing strategies and crisis intervention to try to de-escalate situations.

Frank Clark, a veteran South Portland police lieutenant, has been chosen to be the new chief of police in Portland. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“I think it’s really about three things,” Clark said. “Reducing crime and the issues that are associated with it, and enhancing the quality of life for residents and folks in the city, and doing it in an open and transparent way so we can maintain trust and legitimacy.”

Clark considers himself an inclusive leader and recognizes that good ideas can come from all ranks and corners of the department.

“I want to hear from people, regardless of where they are in the organization, regardless of what rank they hold. I certainly would like to hear from everyone else in the department, all of whom come September will have had more time in the Portland police department than I will have had.”

Clark began his career in South Portland in 1988 as a patrolman, spent seven years as a narcotics officer with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and was promoted to sergeant in 2002 after a three-year stint as a detective.

South Portland Police Chief Edward Googins, who also is retiring, said Clark was a detective when Googins first began working with him, and since then, Clark became an integral member of the department.

“It’s a huge loss to the department,” Googins said. “I’ve very pleased for him. I think he’s going to do an outstanding job.”

The South Portland Police Department posted a message on its Facebook page Thursday evening lamenting the loss of one of its best officers.

“While we always wanted the best in our officer’s personal and professional development, it is going to be bittersweet to give one of our best to our brothers and sisters across the river,” the department’s Facebook post said.

Portland interim Police Chief Vern Malloch Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Portland began its search for a new chief after former Portland police chief Michael Sauschuck took a position as assistant city manager last July, before he was appointed state commissioner for public safety by Gov. Janet Mills in December.

Malloch, a longtime deputy chief who has been with the department since 1984 in a variety of roles, has been leading the department on an interim basis since last July. It is the second time Malloch served in such a role. In 2015, he was appointed interim chief while Sauschuck temporarily served as interim city manager.

Malloch said he plans to re-enter the workforce at some point, but for now will enjoy taking time off and getting some rest.

“This has been an incredibly long hiring process. I am eager to leave behind the stress of running a police department,” Malloch said.

Portland is the state’s largest municipal police department, with over 160 sworn officers and an annual budget of more than $16 million, and one of three municipal law enforcement agencies with the authority to investigate homicides instead of relying on the Maine State Police. The department responds to more than 80,000 calls for service each year.

South Portland, by contrast, employs more than 50 officers, has a budget of about $4.5 million, and responds to more than 20,000 calls for service annually.

The third finalist for the position was David Mara, a former police chief of Manchester, New Hampshire, and a current adviser to New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu.

A total of 28 candidates applied for the position from 18 states. Four applicants were from Maine and the rest came from out of state. All were men. Four candidates were invited to take part in the assessment process, but one withdrew for personal reasons.

The city said it did not have any information on the number of non-white applicants because that information was contained on an optional form that no one chose to complete.

The hiring process, including a daylong test, was handled by Badgequest, an outside firm run by a former police chief from Waltham, Massachusetts, that specializes in top-level public safety recruiting and hiring. The city paid the company at least $10,000 to perform the search and evaluations.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

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