Equipped with not much more than a flashlight and radio, a young security officer named Tim Clarke patrolled the campus of Mount St. Mary’s University 30-some years ago.
He worked the midnight shift when he wasn’t attending classes at Frederick Community College, fresh out of Catoctin High School.
Three decades later, Clarke retired from the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office as a major with more than 35 years of law enforcement experience behind him.
May 31 was his last day.
“Frederick County’s a good place to be a law enforcement officer,” Clarke told the News-Post a few days after his watch ended, calling it the best career he could have entered.
Clarke got his start at the Taneytown Police Department in Carroll County in 1986, then secured a job as a 911 dispatcher at the Frederick County Emergency Communications Center about two years later. By 1989, he was a deputy in the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, where he’d spend the majority of his police career, serving under four sheriffs.
“Major Clarke has been a very effective, reliable and trusted commander, and a key member of my senior command staff during my tenure as sheriff,” FCSO Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said in a prepared statement. “He consistently demonstrated the knowledge and ability to carry out and complete any directive or assignment, including major projects that involve other county divisions and law enforcement agencies.”
A sheriff’s office news release detailed the accomplishments of Clarke’s Frederick County career: implementing the 287(g) immigration program within Frederick County, helping establish the Child Advocacy Center, leading the Crisis Intervention Team and developing the hostage negotiation manual, among other tasks. He’s worked in or supervised every unit within FCSO during his time there.
But when Clarke talks about his career, he’s quick to point out he didn’t work alone.
“I wasn’t just the one person. It was an entire group, and every agency had a representative,” Clarke said of the Child Advocacy Center’s origin. Child Protective Services, the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office, nurses from Frederick Health Hospital and others were involved, he noted.
“The goal when you have a child victim is not to further victimize that child,” Clarke said.
With this in mind, Clarke said he and his colleagues established specialized training to give detectives clear guidelines on how to interview child victims.
It’s difficult for Clarke to pinpoint one memorable call or moment from his career.
He’ll tell you he was proud when the newly-elected Sheriff Jenkins asked him to help implement the 287(g) program that allows deputies to ask about the immigration status of anyone booked into the county’s adult detention center and begin deportation proceedings if necessary.
He’ll also say criminal investigations, where he spent 15-plus years, was the area he enjoyed the most at the sheriff’s office.
“It’s nothing more satisfying to know that you made a difference in somebody’s life, and may save a life,” Clarke said. “You can never quantify how many times you saved a life by just showing up.”
He recalled moments he ran into someone who tangled with police in the past, then detailed how they turned their life around.
“It’s good to see that those individuals grow up and get themselves straightened out,” Clarke said, though he’s again quick to say he can’t take credit for it.
But not all aspects of law enforcement are pleasant. Clarke’s “very disappointed” in legislators taking police reform to the extent it’s gone, and he worries what would happen if qualified immunity is removed. He holds the belief police agencies want to hold their own accountable.
To those that remain on the force, Clarke hopes they know there is a “silent majority” within the public that supports them. And to the new deputies, Clarke offered a nugget of advice.
“Treat those individuals — bad guys and the good guys — the same as you would want to be treated in any situation,” he said.
In retirement, Clarke plans to take some time to focus on his 33-acre farm in northern Frederick County, where he raises cattle and horses. He’s involved with volunteer fire companies in Emmitsburg and Thurmont and plans to assist with the Great Frederick Fair. Clarke expects to work part time somewhere eventually, but doesn’t know where yet.
When he left the law enforcement center on his last day, the moment didn’t hit him like he thought it would. He’d elected to clean out his desk two weeks in advance to make room for Scott Jewell, who was recently promoted to captain.
“People say you know when it’s time,” Clarke said. “I knew it was time to go.”