Sergeant James Clarke

Sloan Public Service Awards • 2023

Title and Organization Community Affairs Officer, NYC Police Department


Some people experience a moment in their lives that puts them on their life’s course. For Sergeant James Clarke, that happened in his hometown of Queens, as a senior at August Martin High School. When the New York City Police Department (NYPD) gave a presentation to his class, Sgt. Clarke’s path was set—he took the entrance exam immediately after graduating. He began his career with the NYPD in 1983, and served in Queens until transitioning to the 32nd Precinct in Harlem to work undercover in street enforcement of narcotics during the crack epidemic. That experience was another inflection point—Sgt. Clarke wondered about how he could best engage with civilians. He pivoted to working alongside communities and became a plain-clothes detective in Bedford-Stuyvesant. A promotion to sergeant in 1998 led him to work in Crown Heights for 10 years, overseeing responses to domestic violence cases. To help people feel comfortable calling the NYPD, he became a constant presence at community events, took part in food and toy drives, and ran the NYPD’s Youth Police Academy. In 2010, Sgt. Clarke took on his current role as a Community Affairs Officer in Queens. He is at the helm of the Youth Police Academy there, and was honored last year for his work—he was named a “Hometown Hero” by the New York Daily News. “He kept kids engaged during the pandemic, when the isolation of everything really challenged young people,” said Coleen Babb, Executive Assistant District Attorney of the Community Partnerships Division, Queens District Attorney’s Office. “And it was meaningful, too. This time coincided with greater demands for social justice due to the death of George Floyd. Sgt. Clarke embraced having honest and tough conversations about social justice with those kids.”