CHARLES Clark had his fair share of life-or-death situations during his time with Essex Police.

The events were defining moments in his memorable career but Charles has also embarked on life-changing work in his community.

“So many experiences during my police service have left an indelible impression on me,” says Charles.

He started as a young constable in 1972 at Clacton, where he was the target of an attempted murder when trying to arrest a teenager armed with a 22-calibre rifle.

Six years later, as an acting inspector, he was taken hostage in Harlow by a gunman who was drunk and on drugs, but amazingly he managed to escape unharmed.

In 1984, on his first day in command as a chief inspector, Charles had to cope with the tragedy of colleague Bill Bishop, who was shot dead in an armed robbery at Walton post office.

Charles was recognised for his bravery and compassion, as well as his clear vision of how to progress and improve the police force.

These strengths later came into force when he became a founding trustee and later chairman of the Essex Community Foundation (ECF) independent charitable trust.

Charles is now the ECF vice-president.

He and wife Sue, who met at Maldon Grammar School and now live in Tolleshunt D’Arcy, were among the first to set up a family fund managed by ECF to help support community and voluntary groups in Essex.

Charles said: “Sue was one of the cleverest girls in the school and I was good at sport.

“I wanted to be a professional footballer and had a couple of trials with clubs.

“Then I had plans to be a sports teacher, until I went for a beer with a friend who was a police cadet and seemed to be having a wonderful life, playing lots of sport and doing things in the community.

“I decided to apply to the Essex force and got the job. I was actually interviewed by the Chief Constable at the time and I think he was impressed that I had bought my own smart suit from my earnings from a holiday job, even though he suggested my parents had paid for it.

“I was the first in my family to join the police force. I came from a working-class background and my dad was a lorry driver.”

As his career progressed, Charles became more and more aware of issues affecting young people.

“I came across kids who were bright as buttons but had no chances in life because of where they came from and the way they had been brought up,” he said.

He went on to take a leading role in the youth justice system, helping to develop policies and strategy for the police service and working closely with the Government.

Sue was also a counsellor for many years and a trustee of Maldon Home-Start.

During his time as chairman of ECF, Charles was a passionate advocate of trustees, taking a leading role in fund development.

One of his greatest achievements was his idea for ECF to work with Essex Police to set up the Proceeds of Crime Matched Funding Scheme.

The scheme matches donations from individuals or companies with money seized from crime.

Charles said: “There were a few raised eyebrows at first when the scheme was put forward, but those with doubts became convinced that it was a good idea.

“The concept is unique to Essex, but I would hope that in time, other police forces around the UK might work with their local community foundation in a similar way.”

After serving as a trustee and chairman of ECF, Charles became a board member of UK Community Foundations, travelling across the country to help promote and develop their work.

Charles, who was awarded the OBE and Queens Police Medal, has now retired after reaching the rank of Deputy Chief Constable.

He and Sue plan to introduce their two daughters and their families to ECF to ensure the Clark Family Fund continues to support young people.

He said: “I still talk to people as often as I can about giving money locally and how rewarding this can be. There is still a lot of scope for ECF for the future and, particularly at this time, its work is needed now more than ever.”