Sheriff Candidate Clark Says His Calling Is Public Service
Clark says he'll implement "intelligence-led" policing if elected
After volunteering with the Liberty Fire Department, Rick Clark said he knew he'd found his calling – public service.
Clark was born and raised in Liberty and began working with the Pickens County Sheriff's Office in 1995.
He left the Sheriff's Office in 1999 to finish his bachelor's degree at Clemson University. He then began working with the Clemson University Department.
In 2003, Clark earned a Master's Degree in Public Administration jointly from Clemson University and the University of South Carolina. He earned his Master's Degree while working as a police officer and later a third shift supervisor at the Clemson University Police Department.
He is a Distinguished Graduate of the SC Criminal Justice Academy.
Clark is a Certified Law Enforcement Instructor by the SC Criminal Justice Academy and a Certified Rapid Deployment School Shooting Instructor.
He recently shared his expertise and training by offering a free Ladies Firearms Class that qualified ladies to receive their CWP License. The class also addressed personal safety for women, Clark said.
Today he is Director of Public Safety with the Tri-County Technical College System.
He also serves as a Liberty City Councilman, first elected in 2001.
“God has been kind enough to me to let public service into my life, and it's been a tremendous value to me,” Clark said. “Community involvement, community service is what I love.”
Working at the Sheriff's Office gave Clark the desire to become Pickens County Sheriff.
"Knowing the inner workings of the Sheriff's Office, I could see that we had great deputies, great staff but we were falling behind the times," Clark said. "The other departments across the state were moving ahead with technology, being more flexible, looking for new ways to combat crime. We weren't moving ahead the way I knew we should be."
Clark said if elected he would implement "intelligence-led policing."
"That's the main thing that's going to be a benefit to deputies and our citizens," Clark. "Under intelligence-led policing, we'll be constantly mining the data, analyzing the data to see the crime trends. Information is power, and we're going to use it to put more criminals away.
"We're going to incorporate data and analytics from every law enforcement agency in the county," Clark continued. "So if we're tracking the same criminals from Highway 11 to Clemson to Easley, we can instantaneously share information across the county. If different departments are tracking the same criminal, we'll know about it that day, not three weeks later. This is a more efficient way for us to share our tax dollars in crime-fighting, if we're all working together to get the same thug off our streets."
Clark said intelligence-led policing will address increases in crime, including drug-related crime and thefts.
"We're going to fight crime at the community and street level," Clark said. "It's giving us an indictor of where we need to allocate our resources on a daily basis. Intelligence-led policing will give the deputie better knowledge at his fingerprints to make better cases."
He said intelligence-led policing will combine data from many different sources, including police officers and sheriff's deputies collecting information at the street level while on patrol, calls for police, and interviews with suspects during booking.
Clark said data collected by 911 calls and contained in the records management system of each law enforcement agency will be analyzed under intelligence-led policing.
That raw data will be used to create graphs and other tools that highlight where the crime is happening. Clark said the analysis could even predict where crimes will occur in the future by highlighting criminal trends.
He said technology updates in the Sheriff's Office should be done with a purpose in mind.
"Any technology upgrade has to be be based in supplementing good old fashioned police work," Clark said. "Technology just for technology's sake is not beneficial for the taxpayer."
Clark said he's also going to address what he calls "the gray ceiling."
"We're going to create an orderly system where we're transitioning away to top-heavy retirees being in administrative positions and giving everybody a chance to compete for those positions on their own merits," Clark said.
Clark claims the "gray ceiling" limits internal promotions and cause officers to leave the Sheriff's Office.
"I've talked to deputies and they say, 'My chances for promotion are very small,'" Clark said. "The ability to retire and come back into place did not start until 2001. Everybody's retiring in at the top and this system's been going on for over a decade now."
Clark is still heavily involved with MARY's House, having been a part of the initial effort, begun in 2003, to create a domestic violence shelter for the area. He served as MARY's House Board chairman and continues to serve on the board.
After MARY’S House opened in 2007, Clark realized that the laws protecting domestic violence shelters were not strong enough. In 2008, Clark organized Victim Advocates from across the State of South Carolina and he met with local legislators to make domestic violence shelters safer.
Clark wrote a draft amendment to the Domestic Violence Statute and later testified at a House of Representatives Committee to get the bill through Columbia. This bill later became law, “SECTION 16-25-125. Trespass Upon Grounds or Structure of Domestic Violence Shelter”. This law makes it a high misdemeanor to trespass on domestic violence grounds and a felony if a weapon is involved.
In August of 2008, Clark invited Governor Sanford to MARY’S House to personally sign the bill.
He says a holistic approach is needed in dealing with domestic abusers, one that combine the courts with rehabilitative programs.
"If we get the person in the program the first time, we have to make sure we're doing everything we can to prevent this in the future," Clark said. "On the other hand, we have to support agencies just like Mary's House. When the woman's life in danger, we have to give them options to escape the danger."