Community reaches out to Claremont police after national events

The Claremont police community is stressing dialogue and professional policing in the wake of recent shootings in Baton Rouge, Minnesota and Dallas.

Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper told the COURIER that the shooting in Dallas has left many in the department shaken, a feeling that has been shared in departments beyond the City of Trees.

“The Claremont Police Department is a family, and that family is not just here but all across the nation,” Chief Cooper said. “Law enforcement shares that common connection with each other. Everyone walked around with a pretty heavy heart.”

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting on July 7, Chief Cooper said he took extra precautions with his officers in the event of a possible copycat incident.

“We doubled up our patrol, put two to a car on a night shift and left it up to the watch commanders to put it on the day shift,” he said, citing a precautionary tactic that has been employed by police departments throughout the nation, from Las Vegas to New York City.

Chief Cooper also noted that the community has been outspoken in its support of its department, with residents dropping off food and cards and expressing condolences and support.

One Claremonter sent a heartfelt letter praying for the CPD “not to feel such despair.”

“Our briefing room has been full of food,” Chief Cooper said. “That was huge.”

Since the shootings, a dominant conversation in America has centered on police brutality and alleged racial bias, which activists from the Black Lives Matter movement claim has been a factor in high-profile fatal shootings of black men and women throughout the country.

Chief Cooper acknowledged that bias against certain groups exists in people, but stressed that it’s the department’s job to police the community fairly.

“Unfortunately, since we have to hire from the human race, those biases occasionally rear their ugly head,” he said. “It’s incumbent on us to recognize those instances and strive to hire the best people we can and train people so we are policing professionally.”

Claremont Police Commissioner Ed Reece told the COURIER that the CPD answers to a higher standard, in part because of a well-maintained civilian review commission.

“I can tell you: within the Claremont Police Department, the standard to which we hold officers in this community are much higher than those in surrounding communities,” Mr. Reece said.

Claremont does not have a completely spotless reputation. The community reeled for years following the death of 18-year-old Irvin Landrum Jr., who was shot by officers on Base Line Road in 1999. In the years between the incident and the closing of the investigation—in which the DA determined the officers did not commit a crime—numerous vigils and protests were held in front of Claremont City Hall, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time.

The department has since done much to heal the divide.

NAACP Pomona Valley Branch President Jeanette Ellis-Royston noted many black communities—including those in the Inland Valley—have been hurting in the wake of the shootings, but urged a proactive approach in dealing with the fallout.

“It has to be positive. We cannot go about it in a negative way,” Ms. Ellis-Royston said, who noted “every life is important and matters” and said the gunning down of police officers by 25-year-old Micah Xavier Johnson was “not acceptable.”

She floated the idea of creating a town hall forum, which would include local activists, city leaders and police representatives for a discussion on how to improve relations between police and marginalized communities.

“At least we can say we are coming together to make a difference,” Ms. Ellis-Royston said. “We can be a model if we do it right. We can be a model for the rest of the nation.”

Mr. Reece was on board with the idea of a town hall, saying that dialogue is of paramount importance.

“It’s when we cease to communicate—stay on our sides, if you will—that we have tremendous breakdowns and [that] can lead to harmful situations,” he said.

Amid all the questions of police procedures in the country, Chief Cooper stressed that the Claremont Police Department is an institution that serves everyone in Claremont, regardless of creed or background.

“We’re here by the people for the people to protect the people, regardless of ethnicity and gender,” he said. “It’s our goal to support the community so the community supports us.”

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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