Goodbye Chief Cooper

All he wanted was an In-N-Out party in flip-flops, but instead Claremont gave outgoing police chief Paul Cooper a retirement celebration to remember.

The gala at the DoubleTree Hotel Tuesday was full of hundreds of well-wishers, supporters and community members, from Claremont police officers to top Los Angeles County cops such as LA County Sheriff Jim McDonnell and LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey.

Everyone was there for one reason—to give a proper send-off to a man who has spent 32 years at the CPD, the last 10 as chief.

City Manager Tony Ramos, who emceed the event, noted Chief Cooper’s initial apprehension about all the pomp and circumstance, and the strong working relationship between the city and the department.

“I have been so fortunate as city manager to have Cooper as our chief,” Mr. Ramos said.

He also noted that historically there has been less of a rapport between a city’s staff and the department, but mentioned, “We have never had that issue in Claremont.”

The 180 guests at the event who each paid $15 for lunch dined on cold cut sandwiches, a variety of salads and fruit and the DoubleTree’s famous chocolate chip cookies before listening to remarks of local dignitaries like Ms. Lacey.

Ms. Lacey was on hand to present an honorary proclamation from the county, and spoke on Chief Cooper’s quiet determination as chief and as the former head of the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association.

“You’re a man of few words, but you don’t know how many people, myself included, look up to you,” she said. “You’ve done a marvelous job, and I want to thank you.”

Lt. Mike Ciszek told a story of how he was assigned to Chief Cooper, then a sergeant, when he first joined the squad. He was tasked with ticketing a group of skateboarders in the Village, but checked the wrong box, causing a major headache with the kids’ parents.

Lt. Ciszek said that throughout his years in law enforcement, Chief Cooper was always following the right path. “We always talked about the right way versus Cooper’s way,” he said. “It was always the same road.”

He then unveiled two Claremont street signs—one saying “Right Way” and another saying “Cooper’s Way.”

The department also unveiled two massive shadowboxes containing every badge, rank and piece of equipment the chief used during his 32 years on the force.

The former chief received an array of gifts, some humorous and others heartfelt, from the police department and city staff.

City Engineer Loretta Mustafa unveiled a special speed limit sign in honor of the chief’s work with her department on speed surveys. The sign read, “Speed Limit 30, Cooper’s Limit 15.”

“We haven’t passed this by the vehicle code, but we’re working on it,” Ms. Mustafa quipped.

Human Services Director Anne Turner talked about the chief’s dedication to the city parks and homeless services. Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor noted the chief’s quick humor and knack for finding the absurd in any situation, while expressing a true compassion for the city.

The city council was also on hand to honor the chief, noting his professionalism and his adeptness at writing good and readable staff reports.

Councilmember Opanyi Nasiali borrowed a regal phrase for an outgoing leader. “Long live the chief,” he told the crowd.

After a slideshow of pictures from Chief Cooper’s tenure at the department and a hearty standing ovation from the crowd, it was the chief’s turn to speak.

He thanked the city, and talked about his time under the wing of former Claremont officer Lionel Brown, who took the young Cooper on a ride-along. During the ride-along, Chief Cooper and Mr. Brown chased down a perpetrator while driving 60 miles-per-hour. Chief Cooper saw the officer tackle the suspect and arrest him.

“And I’m saying to myself, ‘they pay to do this s—?’” Chief Cooper joked. “This is freaking amazing. I was hooked from there on out.”

Chief Cooper thanked his officers, the city for their confidence in his work and Mr. Ramos for their nine years working together.

“I can only use the word, ‘extraordinary,’” he said.

He became emotional when he brought up his wife, Rina and son, Cole.

“You’ve always been there for me through thick and thin,” he said. “I love you guys.”

The city will officially swear in the new chief, Captain Shelly Vander Veen, on November 28.

—Matthew Bramlett


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