South Portland Police Department Lt. Frank Clark, 51, of Scarborough, appears at a news conference at Portland City Hall on July 25 after the announcement that he’ll be Portland’s new chief of police. Brianna Soukup / PPH

PORTLAND — City Manager Jon Jennings tapped a top police official in South Portland to be Portland’s new chief of police.

On July 25, Jennings announced Lt. Frank Clark of the South Portland Police Department would permanently replace former Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, who resigned a year ago to become Portland’s assistant city manager.

Sauschuck is now commissioner of the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Vern Malloch, a 35-year-veteran of the department and its former assistant chief, has been serving as Portland’s acting police chief.

Jennings said he will bring his recommendation to the City Council on Wednesday, Sept. 4. Clark is expected to start the next day, if the council approves.

Malloch, who was also a finalist for the permanent job, submitted his letter of resignation, effective Wednesday, Aug. 7.

In a brief conversation with the Portland Press Herald following the announcement, Clark said he is eager to meet and get to know the men and women of the department in September. He said he plans to continue efforts in recruitment, retention, crisis intervention and community policing strategies.

Clark, a Scarborough resident, began his career in South Portland in 1988 as a patrolman. He served as a narcotics officer with the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency from 1991 to 1998, at which time he became a detective, a position he held for four years. In 2002, he was promoted to sergeant. For the last 14 years, he has been a lieutenant in the department.

Jennings said he was impressed with Clark’s “compelling vision” of the future of the Portland Police Department.

“For me, it is about upgrading and modernizing at every level of government, so we are creating the most efficient government as we can,” Jennings said. “Frank was the candidate I felt could provide leadership in that direction.”

A total of 28 candidates from 18 states applied for the position, including four applicants from Maine. Clark, Malloch and David Mara, a former chief in Manchester, New Hampshire, were named finalists.

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 public safety recruiting and hiring. The city paid the company at least $10,000 to perform the search and evaluations.

Malloch told the Press Herald his decision  to resign “was not a reflection on Frank Clark.”

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

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

Jennings said he will have to name an acting interim police chief to cover the gap between when Malloch leaves and Clark arrives.

“I can’t thank him enough for all he has done for the city, specifically in the last year helping to lead the department,” Jennings said of Malloch, who has been with the police department since 1984. “I wish him all the best.”

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