Newly promoted sergeant named 'Face of Hope'Southwest Crisis Center recognizes officer's compassion, sensitivity
WORTHINGTON — Advocate Laura Shefte of the Southwest Crisis Center (SWCC) recently left a message for Nobles County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jay Clarke, asking him to call her right away.
WORTHINGTON — Advocate Laura Shefte of the Southwest Crisis Center (SWCC) recently left a message for Nobles County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jay Clarke, asking him to call her right away. After several years as an investigator, Clarke did not anticipate good news. As it turns out, he was wrong.
The SWCC advocates asked him to be this year’s “Face of Hope,” an award given to people who provide assistance to both the SWCC and the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. For the second year, advocates at the center picked someone who has helped the agency and their clients, and will honor them during a fundraiser.
“I’ll take that kind of call any day,” Clarke joked.
The advocates said they picked Clarke because of his compassion and sensitivity when dealing with clients during investigations.
“He is very caring, very understanding and keeps an open mind,” Shefte stated. “He is respectful and has a non-judgmental demeanor.”
Coming forward to admit to domestic abuse or sexual assault can be a frightening experience, advocate Maria Muniz stated. Knowing they won’t be looked down upon or judged can make that easier.
“A victim can be intimidated by authorities, but (Clarke) helps them feel more comfortable when he’s talking to them, and he is respectful,” she said.
Clarke, who started working as a peace officer in 1991, admitted there is no mystery to treating the SWCC clients with respect and dignity.
“I put myself in their position,” he said. “How would I feel if it was my mother, my wife, my daughter going through this? How would I want her to be treated? They are victims.”
Being truthful and not sugar-coating what he expects the outcome of a case to be, he said, is also important.
“I don’t dance around it,” he stated.
As the 14th of 15 children, Clarke’s life revolved around a dairy farm, his family and the people nearby for the first 18 years of his life. After being certified in law enforcement and serving a short stint as a part-time officer on the Sacred Heart Police Department, he took a position on the Appleton Police Department — an eye-opening experience.
“I found out how naive I really was,” he laughed. “Family structures, extended families, all the different last names — it was a surprise to me. I had to struggle with communicating without offending. But it taught me not to assume anything and to go into calls with an open mind.”
As a child, Clarke first developed an interest in law enforcement because an uncle who was chief of the Minnesota State Patrol would occasionally stop by the farm.
“It was my first experience with squad cars and cops,” Clarke said. “I was at an impressionable age and it sure made an impression.”
Around that same time in his life, Clarke lost a little brother. Two-year-old Russell drowned Nov. 15, 1979 and Clarke was greeted by an older brother with the news as he got off the school bus.
“There were EMTs and firefighters everywhere,” he said. “And cops. That stuck with me.”
Clarke never wavered in his knowledge that he would be a peace officer, and has now been with the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office for almost 12 years.
“I started here on March 22, 1999 — my 30th birthday was my first day on the job,” he said.
He was a patrol officer for several years, then served as the department’s investigator. He was recently promoted to sergeant and will serve as the night supervisor.
He will be honored with the “Face of Hope” award on Sat. Sept. 11, during the SCC’s annual fundraiser. There will be a steak fry from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Elks Club, with a silent auction. Presentation of the award will be at 7 p.m.
Last year, Nobles County Attorney Gordon Moore was chosen as the first SWCC “Face of Hope.”