Spring City police chief Clarke Christensen retires, but will remain fire chief
By Rhett Wilkinson
SPRING CITY— After a career in law enforcement lasting upwards of 44 years, Clarke Christensen retired Sunday as the police chief of Spring City. He will remain the city’s fire chief.
“It will be nice to have more free time,” Christensen said. “I’ve loved being police chief … I took a sizeable pay cut to be here, but it’s been … a great experience.”
Christensen started with Spring City police part-time in 2014 and became the full-time chief in 2017. He started his law enforcement career with BYU police and worked in the Orem police department
Christensen said that with his retirement, he’ll be able to focus more on the fire department.
Christensen also looks forward to doing more camping and getting more done around his property.
“Just having more time will be nice,” Christensen said.
Because his father was in the Air Force, Christensen is “two years from everywhere,” he said.
“I’ve lived everywhere from Tripoli (Libya) to Anchorage,” Christensen said.
When asked what led to Christensen becoming the police chief, Christensen responded by saying, “I enjoy being involved in what’s going on. I enjoy solving problems and making things better.
“And interestingly enough, I learned that police officers have more opportunity to do that than up north,” Christensen said. “Down here, police get to be able to know people and get more involved in people’s lives.”
What Christensen most likes about being in law enforcement is “the ability to do things for people.” While much of the idea is true that law enforcement is about “getting bad guys,” Christensen liked to help folks, he said.
“Even if you arrest somebody, I’ve had people come back [and say] you arrested me six months ago and it was the best thing that ever happened to me; thank you for arresting me,” Christensen said.
The opportunity to do good things and solve issues in neighborhoods is much greater in Spring City than in Utah County, Christensen said.
One time in Spring City, Christensen got a call from dispatch that a woman was injured. Her husband wouldn’t be able to arrive home until later that day. Christensen tried to arrive for an ambulance to take her to the hospital.
“I can’t; I can’t afford it,” the woman said, according to Christensen.
“Tell you what: if there was a police truck just driving by and would be willing to … give you a ride to the hospital, would you take it?” Christensen asked the woman.
The woman said she would, according to Christensen.
“Up north, I wouldn’t be able to do that because of policies and procedures,” Christensen said.
Christensen added that he never used the night stick, or baton, he got from the Orem police department on a person.
Christensen said that being a police chief carried, “A lot of responsibility, but a lot of opportunity.”
Over his time in law enforcement, Christensen has seen many changes, from training to laws.
For instance, when Christensen became an officer, if violent felons ran away, a policeman could shoot them.
“So it’s changed a lot,” Christensen said.
Christensen then pointed to his time as a BYU policeman.
“They said, ‘here’s your gun; here’s your badge … try not to arrest anybody, but I guess if you have to, you have to,’” Christensen said.
“At that point in time, officers didn’t have to go through the academy for a year-and-a-half,” Christensen said.
A police academy is an institute for schooling of police trainees.
The biggest challenge Christensen overcame as a police chief, he said, is the John Coltharp case.
In the case, Coltharp took his four children from Spring City to western Iron County. Then Samuel Warren Shaffer hid two girls in plastic water barrels. Coltharp was arrested and put in Sanpete County Jail on one count of child kidnapping, a first-degree felony, and one count of obstruction of justice, a Class A misdemeanor. Shaffer was also arrested on suspicion of child kidnapping (two counts) and reckless child abuse (four counts).
The two men are in prison now.
“It really started out as a domestic type of call and custody issue, but because of the way the case unfolded, I spent a fair enough of time with then County Attorney Brody Keisel on the phone trying to work out legalities and find out where things were; what was happening,” Christensen said. “It took a great amount of investigating. … That was a good case.”
Christensen is retiring because “law enforcement is … for younger bodies,” he said.
“I’m just getting older and wrestling people to the ground is probably something I shouldn’t be doing anymore,” Christensen said.
Christensen added that he will still be involved in law enforcement—if there is an arson case while he is the fire chief, his law enforcement certification will still help because he can act as a law enforcement officer.
“There is a benefit to hanging onto my law enforcement certification,” Christensen said. “I plan on maintaining my law enforcement certification and still being involved, but not to the extent that I have been.”
In the Jan. 7 Spring City council meeting, Spring City Mayor Cynthia DeGrey and Councilman Joe McGriff expressed positive sentiments about Christensen.
“I too, Joe, appreciate our friendship,” Christensen said. “I’m glad we are ending on this note than the one we started on.”
“I’m grateful for the relationship that we were able to develop over the last year, year-and-a-half,” McGriff said.
DeGrey said that Christensen has sat down for dinner with his wife, only to need to leave to attend to an incident.
“There she sits alone with dinner,” DeGrey said, noting that dinner is then cold when Christensen returns.
That scenario played out when Christensen attended to a recent shooting in Indianola.
“So we want her to know that we appreciate her service as well,” DeGrey said. “Being the wife of a policeman is challenging.”
DeGrey announced that the council was giving Christensen a gift card at Das Café in town.
Christensen described his police career as “awesome.”
“I have really enjoyed working with the people of Spring City,” Christensen said. “The people here in Sanpete County are awesome. I’ve just loved it.”