Officer’s path to law enforcement started with military service


Joining the U.S. Marine Corps allowed Oakland Patrol Sergeant Cliff Atkins to achieve his longtime goal of becoming an officer of the law.
Growing up in a military household in Union City, Atkins always dreamt of becoming a police officer.
“It’s the only thing I ever saw myself being as a child,” he said.
Atkins knew that one way to achieve his ambition was to enlist and train as a military police officer.
However, instead of pursuing a career in the Navy like his father, Atkins opted for the Marine Corps.
“Being a small child growing up on a Navy base,” he said, “I would see the Marines and they were always crisp and sharp. That’s what I always wanted. I didn’t see myself in any other branch.”
Despite a scholarship offer to play football at the University of Mississippi, Atkins enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1987. That same week, he also graduated from high school and got married.
“That was my honeymoon,” Atkins laughed, “Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot.”
After training, Atkins was made a Marine security guard and tasked with guarding the U.S. Embassy in Okinawa, Japan for six months.
Upon his return to the states, he began training at Camp Lejeune, N.C. in order to become a military police officer. By 1990, Atkins was First Marine Division Military Police.
“I got out of the Marines and became a deputy sheriff in Walker County, Ga.,” he said.
From there, Atkins spent years taking jobs at various correctional facilities and sheriff’s departments, and commanding Special Operations Response Teams in Marion County, Ind. and Whiteville.
In 1999, Atkins became a deputy with the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department, where he would work for six years before taking a job with the Oakland Police Department.
In 2006, Atkins took a brief departure from law enforcement.
“I took a sabbatical,” he said smiling, “to go work on a river boat. That is some hard work.”
Atkins worked on the Lower Mississippi River for two years.
“I’d work 28 days on,” he said, “and 28 days off.”
During the second year, he eased his way back into law enforcement, taking a reserve job with the Moscow Police Department during his off days.
He soon became a full-time investigator and later a detective for Moscow until 2009, when he was hired back to the Oakland Police Department.
Now, more than 20 years into his law enforcement career, Atkins credits the Marines for allowing him to pursue his childhood dream.