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VIEWPOINT: Making Claremont an inclusive city

My name is Rolondo Talbott and I am a member of the Claremont Police Commission. Just like many of you, these past several weeks have proven to be trying and emotional as I grapple with the senseless murder of George Floyd, and those before and after, whose lives ended tragically at the hands of police officers. I say unequivocally and without hesitation or mental reservation that All Black Lives Matter—I matter.

As an African American man, husband, father, business owner and resident of Claremont, I am acutely and painfully aware that despite my personal and professional accomplishments, despite my service to the city, despite my contribution to society in raising my children to become future leaders—despite all of that—there are many, even in Claremont, who seek to silence my voice, who seek to dismiss my accomplishments, who seek to admonish my service to the city and characterize it as nothing more than political posturing and, who seek to diminish the way I raise my children—simply because of the color of my skin.

For me, this is nothing new. From my time as a young military officer to today, I live with the constant, mind-numbing and exhausting reminder that my mere presence causes some people to feel angry or confused and even threatened. Yes, even here in Claremont.

I’ve purposely delayed making a statement because I too felt it was necessary to listen. As a resident of Claremont for almost seven years, I’ve been educated about the city’s treatment of people of color by residents, business owners and the police department.

I’ve learned about the pain that still exists in our community over the death of Irvin Landrum and I’ve listened to the current lived experiences of people of color and commiserated about my own. I’ve listened to the current criticism of the Claremont Police Department and the police commission. I’ve listened to the criticism of the city council and city manager. And, I’ve listened to and personally experienced criticism on social media.

Many have asked, after all I have learned, heard and experienced in Claremont, why would I actively seek to become a member of the police commission? My answer is twofold. First, as the son of a retired police officer and a third-generation member of the military, the term “service before self” is engrained in my DNA. What this means to me is that my desire to serve or be of service at many times surpasses my selfish desires, even to my own detriment.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, I sought appointment to the police commission for the very same reason why many of you have marched or protested—because All Black Lives Matter. Speaking truthfully, I did not see anyone who looked like me sitting on the police commission. And as valid as All Black Lives Matter is, one could argue that representation matters almost as much.

Contrary to some beliefs, our role as members of the police commission is not a civilian extension of the police department, but rather, we are the link between the residents and the police department and that is a role that I take extremely seriously.

I want my children to feel just as comfortable and carefree as everyone else’s to play outside or take a walk. I want to feel as free and comfortable as everyone else taking a run around the block. I want students at the Claremont Colleges and any other visitor to Claremont to feel as safe and welcomed as us residents and I see my role and function as a member of the police commission as a way to help ensure my desires.

My call to action to all residents who are passionate about making Claremont an example of an inclusive city—a city that can work together to make positive change, a city that understands that All Black Lives Matter. Let us work with our elected officials, city employees and members of the police commission—provide your feedback and constructive criticisms, attend our meetings and continue to be heard, volunteer, run for office or apply to work for the city. “Be the change you want to see.”

I have had the privilege to live and work all over the United States and the world and I can honestly say that I love Claremont. And while the city is not perfect, we remain in Claremont because we’re encouraged by those in this community who are passionate about change and we recognize the potential for Claremont to become even better.

I look forward to continuing to work with all the residents of Claremont as we strive to improve our community. In solidarity,

Rolondo Talbott

Member of the Claremont Police Commission

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