A DEDICATED police officer who has devoted his career to working with the community has been honoured by Her Majesty The Queen for his contribution to policing.

Sgt Dave Clarke has been awarded the British Empire Medal in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List announced today.

As well as patrolling the streets of Stanley to keep the area safe, the dedicated officer has helped set up a community café, youth club, and radio station as part of his commitment to help local residents.

He joined Durham Constabulary in 1996, serving as a constable in Consett. After a period working in HQ and three years as a response sergeant covering the north of County Durham, he became Neighbourhood Sergeant for Stanley in 2013.

“I loved it,” said Dave. “It gave me chance to work in the very heart of the community, helping protect vulnerable people and make it a safer place. I have come across some of the nicest people I have ever met in Stanley: they just need help to get their communities back where they were.”

Durham Chief Constable Jo Farrell added: “I’d like to congratulate Dave on this well-deserved honour after a career spent protecting the people of County Durham and Darlington.

“It is an award which recognizes the dedication of an officer who is always thinking of original and innovative ways to try to solve problems. But above all, this is recognition for the people of Stanley who have worked with local police officers to try to make their area a better place – it isn’t just an honour for one individual, it’s an honour for an entire community.”

Among Dave’s first arrests was a burglar who he arrested again 20 years later.
He said: “After a while, you get to know them. They commit crime because they have fallen into the grip of drugs and they do it to feed their habit, which is why the forward-looking approach of the force in trying to deal with the underlying causes behind crime works so well. If you can help them solve that problem then you can make a difference to them and the community they live in.”

That problem-solving approach first became evident when Dave noticed an increase in calls to police from a newly-built housing estate, many arising from parking disputes among neighbours and residents reporting children playing football or teenagers hanging around the estate.

The unconventional officer, who is a committed vegan and trustee of the animal charity Stray Aid, persuaded the housebuilder to pay for a burger van to go onto the estate, offering free food to residents.

He remembered: “We gave them a free burger and a coffee, but only if they came out of their houses and talked to each other.

“People just don’t know their neighbours the way they used to. We got all the neighbours talking to each other and the number of calls to the police dropped because they resolved problems among themselves.”

In 2014, he was involved in setting up The Zone youth café, a successful project to give young people something to do on an evening.

Two years later, Pact House was set up in a former bank on Front Street and is now home to a café, foodbank, radio station and provides a base for countless community groups.

Dave said: “I do believe there’s good in everybody and we can use their strengths to help others: that’s the power of community.

“As long as you put enough effort into something you can make it work: as long as you have the right people around you with the right values you can make anything happen.”

He added: “The great thing about Pact House is that somebody struggling financially could be sitting next to a millionaire in the café and neither would know, they would just be enjoying the same great food and friendly atmosphere.

“I came to realise that the people with the least money can have the most to give and would often see a parent with a wealth of experience come in for food support to tide them over and end up giving advice to a new parent who doesn’t have the same financial concerns but is struggling to cope.”

Now aged 45, Dave lives with his long-term partner and two children at Consett and the couple plan to get married in Cornwall next summer.

Last year, after six years at Stanley, Dave was transferred to the headquarters’ Control Room, ensuring 999 and 101 calls are answered and cops are despatched.
He was at work when he received news that he was to be honoured for his community work.

“At first I thought it was either a wind-up or some sort of online fraud, but I checked it out and it was genuine!

“I am really proud of this honour, though acutely aware that it is primarily due to the hard work of a fantastic team of volunteers, helping and advising me.

“I hope it demonstrates that working with communities can be rewarding and starts with being as fair and honest with people as you can, doing your best and treating people how you would like to be treated yourself.”