New police chief brings experience, work ethic to job

Claremont Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen keeps three quotes on the inside of her locker to remind herself of the importance of her job.

One is from Viktor Frankl:?“Success is the unintended side effect of a personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself.” Another states, “The true warrior can on one hand build the mightiest sword, while on the other caress the smallest child.” The third quote comes from fallen LA County Sheriff’s Deputy David March—“My goals are simple: I will always be equally honest, work as hard as I can, learn as much as I can, and hopefully make a difference in people’s lives.”

These quotes reflect the chief’s commitment and obligation to the community. It is these values that led her to become Claremont’s newest police chief.

Chief Vander Veen was officially sworn in during a rousing ceremony on November 28. The event, held at the DoubleTree Hotel, drew community members, city leaders and police officers alike.

City Manager Tony Ramos hosted the event, and touted the significance of Chief Vander Veen being the town’s first female police chief.

“Claremont is a community that has always been on the forefront of change and setting an example of what leadership looks like,” he said. “It looks like commitment, dedication, ability, caring and hard work, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or disability.”

The chief brushed off the fact that she’s the first woman top cop. “My co-workers know I never wanted to be labeled as a female officer,” she said. “I only strive to be the best police officer I can be, and to work without any labels.”

But she emphasized how far policing and society have come for her to achieve this position, and thanked the women who paved the way before her.

“God knows, I probably wouldn’t be here today if female officers still had to wear skirts,” she joked.

Outgoing Chief Paul Cooper swore in Chief Vander Veen, and her badge was pinned on her by Buena Park Police Captain Gary Hendricks, a friend and mentor.

Chief Vander Veen thanked her predecessor for his leadership during his decade-long tenure at the top of the department.

“Chief Cooper has been a mentor to me throughout my career and has left the department in a very good state,” she said.

Still, she said, there is room for growth within the department.

She acknowledged the uphill climb police officers have in the current climate and pledged to maintain trust between the force and the community.

“As a police officer, and now as a police chief, I believe it is our duty to rebuild or maintain that trust one contact at a time,” she said. “Every phone call, every call to service, every traffic stop, every contact is an opportunity to strengthen the public trust—to continue professionalism and respect.”

She encouraged Claremonters to come to her with any ideas and input.

“My door is open to you. This is your police department and I value the community’s input and ideas.”

When addressing her officers, she emphasized three primary expectations: earn their paycheck, be professional and treat everyone with respect.

“As I lead this department, I will expect nothing less myself,” the chief said.

The chief thanked her family and co-workers, especially retired Officer Barbara Harrell and retired Lt. Bob Smith. She told a story about how Lt. Smith dug into the trash for then-Officer Vander Veen’s DUI notes when she mistakenly threw them away.

The new chief grew up in Chino, where she was a star athlete and gold-medal winner in soccer and boxing. She first joined the Claremont Police Department in 1993 and has moved her way up the ranks, including seven years as a lieutenant and five years supervising the detective bureau before being promoted to captain in 2014.

As a child, she was friends with Karen Comstock, who grew up to become Chino’s police chief. Chief Vander Veen noted that the two played soccer together in their teens and have a friendly rivalry as adults.

“I have joked with her that I’m trying to keep up with her,” she said.

Now both childhood friends are chiefs of their respective departments, and they still regularly keep in touch with each other.

Chief Vander Veen promised those in attendance that she would hit the ground running when she assumes her role as chief.

“I grew up in a hardworking family that taught me a very strong work ethic,” she said. “That work ethic has been in my blood. It’s who I am. And nothing is going to change that during my role as chief.”

—Matthew Bramlett


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