Clarence Crook III: First Black Chief of Police in Bay Minette, Alabama

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By Brionna McCall, Intern

It takes a lot of hard work to accomplish your goals and live your dream, but it takes much more than that to make history as a Black man.

Clarence Crook III is well-known in Bay Minette, Alabama, serving in the police force for over 30 years. He is the first Black person to become a full-time police officer at Bay Minette Police Department, the first Black person to become the Assistant Chief of Police, and the first Black person to be the Chief of Police.

Crook attended Douglasville High School and integrated in the ‘70s into Baldwin County High School when he was moving to the eighth grade. He graduated in 1975. He is a husband to Toni Crook and a father to their four children: Debrick Crook, Bridgett Crook Anderson, Clarence Crook IV and Candace Crook Orr. He is a grandfather of four: Brionna McCall, Joni Faye Anderson, and Landon James Anderson, and he is expecting another in July.

“I went into the military for a little while, came back and worked different jobs, and in December of ‘85, I went to Bay Minette Police Department. I worked there my entire career basically,” he said. “I was a patrol officer and eventually, I got promoted to corporal, a few years later, I got promoted to sergeant, and then I became lieutenant, and then I got into the investigation department. I investigated for 15 years. I investigated all major crimes, homicides, and assaults. Anything that needed to be investigated I did it. Eventually, I got promoted to captain, and then assistant chief, and in 2012, I became interim chief. In February 2013, I became chief of Bay Minette, and I held that position until I retired in 2017.”

Crook piqued his interest in law enforcement because his father was in the field. For him, being a police officer in the town he grew up in would have been beneficial to the people.

According to Crook, as a Black man working with a predominately white staff, there was a cultural difference.

“We worked together, communicated well, solved cases, and protected the public, but there are differences culturally. Though there were cultural differences, we all came together for the good of the citizens of Bay Minette.”

Following his promotion to Chief of Police, Crook was very proud because it was something that he always wanted to experience.

“My wife was very proud of me because she knew that I was capable of doing it,” he said. “She knew that I had put a lot of hard work into my career to become a police chief, and she knew that I love helping people.”

Crook’s main priority as the chief was to make sure that he had officers that loved their job, loved their community, were honest and wanted to do the right thing to make a difference.

“The most challenging part is, when you’re a person of color, everybody is watching your every move and your every decision. By me being a people person, I was able to get along with all ethnicities,” he said. “I kind of wished that my dad was still alive to see that because I knew that he never thought Bay Minette would have a Black chief. My mom was still alive, so she was able to cherish that moment for me. Just the accomplishment of starting as a patrol officer and working my way up to Chief of Police for a Black person is the most exciting part.”

As people know, the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) developed in 2013 in the acquittal of the 2012 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Crook knows that everyone is not in agreement with everything that happens when it comes to police officers, so during the movement, he felt it could be troubling for the officers who do care.

“When you’re a police officer that cares about not the color of people but just people in general, every life matter,” he said. “Police officers face a lot of stress in different situations, but like any profession, you have some good and some bad.”

After 30-plus years in law enforcement, Crook retired because he knew it was time, and he had other entities that he wanted to focus on, such as his septic tank company, Crook Septic Tank Service. His inspirations are his grandchildren.

“I do what I can to better their lives, help them in any way possible, and just enjoy family life,” he said.

According to Crook, he has no regrets about being in law enforcement. He enjoyed it and enjoyed his accomplishments throughout his career. He was fond of helping people and thanked God for having his back and bringing him home in one piece.

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