New foundation will support Claremont police

Longtime Claremont resident Joyce Sauter is president and founder of the newly formed Claremont Police Foundation. Courier photo/Steven Felschundneff

by Steven Felschundneff |

A bright idea, and a bit of tenacity, from longtime Claremont resident Joyce Sauter has resulted in a new organization that will help the police department pay for equipment and programs that don’t get fully funded through the city’s budget.

With the support of a small group of friends, Sauter created the Claremont Police Foundation, which will raise money to ensure the department has “access to the latest equipment, technology and training necessary to carry out their duties effectively,” according to the organization’s website.

“It’s a very humbling experience to see longtime residents of Claremont putting their time and effort into creating a foundation to support the police department,” Chief Aaron Fate wrote in an email. “The members of the Claremont Police Department are grateful for the work of the foundation members and those supporting them. We look forward to working together to provide the best service we can to the community.”

Former Claremont Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen announces the launch of the Claremont Police Foundation during last week’s City Council meeting. Behind Vander Veen is Captain Mike Ciszek, center, and Chief Aaron Fate. Courier photo/Steven Felschundneff

Former Claremont Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen announced the foundation’s launch during last week’s Claremont City Council meeting. The group’s focus will be on raising money for four priorities: a second police dog, the youth explorer programs, specialized officer training, and equipment and technology.

“The city staff and City Council do a great job developing a budget prioritizing community safety,” Vander Veen said. “The intent of the foundation is to create partnerships between the community and the police department, through donations and fundraising opportunities, that will further enhance the police department’s programs and services. The foundation has created a vehicle for the community to show their appreciation for the hard work of the men and women at the police department, at the same time enhancing the programs that make our community safer.”

Sauter, who has been a police volunteer for several years, said forming the nonprofit organization first occurred to her about five years ago when she remarked to Vander Veen that it was unfortunate Claremont did not have a police foundation, unlike most local cities. She also cited limited city funding, Claremont’s growing population, and residents’ concern over safety as reasons the police department could use a financial boost.

After Vander Veen’s retirement in 2021, the two continued to talk about starting the foundation. They began the process of getting the appropriate certification from the state about a year ago. Sauter said they wanted to wait until everything was in order before announcing their plans.

Sauter will serve as the organization’s president and founder. She has been a vocal advocate for the construction of a new police station. However, the millions of dollars needed for that project is far beyond the purview of the foundation, according to Vander Veen, who will take on the role of CEO. The foundation’s all volunteer board consists of Sauter, Vander Veen, Helaine Goldwater, vice president, Deborah Robinson, secretary, and Bill Buehler, treasurer.

According to Buehler, the approximately $5,000 in start up costs was donated by Reece Community Initiatives, City Council member Ed Reece’s charitable organization, where he serves as founder and chair of the board of directors. This financial boost means every dollar the foundation raises will go straight to supporting the police department. An anonymous donor will match dollar for dollar, up to $25,000, any contributions to the Claremont Police Foundation that come in until June 30.

Claremont’s K-9 program began in the 1980s. In 2014 the police department’s dog was named Dodger, and its handler was Sean Evans. Around that time local activist group Keeping Good in the Neighborhood raised money for a second police dog, Luther. Evans and both of those dogs have since retired. In 2021 the department added Drew, a bloodhound, with Matt Morales as his handler. Both continue to serve.

“Canines are considered a force multiplier. In other words, one dog tracking can do the work of numerous officers,” Vander Veen said. “For example, Drew as a bloodhound can follow the scent of a suspect in a crime, track down a runaway juvenile, or even a missing adult with Alzheimer’s, saving hours or even days of police officer efforts.”

Drew costs the department $12,500. Chief Fate said the cost of a potential second dog on the force is unknown because they have yet to identify a specific canine.

The police department was so severely understaffed following the pandemic that it had no traffic division. Chief Fate has since hired three officers dedicated to traffic safety. The foundation would like to help fund a fourth motor officer by paying for the specialized helmet, Kevlar uniform, and communication equipment needed to get another officer out on a motorcycle, Vander Veen said.

The foundation’s goal in supporting the police explorer program is to provide scholarships to ensure that no youth is prevented from attending the annual explorer academy or the other regional competitions due to lack of funds.

With the foundation established, Sauter said she has now realized one of her two “bucket list” wishes. The other is the upgrade of the women’s locker rooms at the police department.

The group is actively looking for additional volunteers to help with fundraising tasks, including staffing the foundation’s booth at the Fourth of July celebration and during Village Venture.

For more information or to donate call (909) 480-8950 or email


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