CLAREMONT — City officials announced Monday that they have hired the city's first African American police chief, more than a year after a fatal police shooting of a black motorist rocked this mostly white town and prompted a communitywide discussion of race relations.
Roy A. Brown, a police captain from Eugene, Ore., will head the beleaguered Police Department, the city manager said.
The city has been the target of weekly protests over the January 1999 shooting of 18-year-old Irvin Landrum Jr. The city manager, Glenn Southard, has drawn intense criticism for naming the two officers involved in the incident as employees of the year.
Southard said the fact Brown, 54, is African American was "a plus, obviously" but not the reason he was hired.
"He comes from a college town, and that is the primary thing that attracted me to him," said Southard, whose tree-lined city is home to Claremont Colleges.
Brown, a 28-year police veteran, will report to Southard.
Claremont's department has had an interim chief since February, when the city withdrew an offer it had made to Thomas Scheidecker, chief of police in Ripon. The offer was rescinded after news reports detailed his connection with a controversial intelligence unit of the LAPD, from which he'd been suspended in the 1980s.
Brown will take over from interim Chief Bill Ellis Oct. 2.
Some police critics were heartened by the new appointment.
"This is a good sign that at least the racial barrier has been broken, and that is positive in and of itself," said Halford Fairchild, a psychology professor at Pitzer College who has been leading the protests.
Brown is an active member of Eugene's chapter of the NAACP and has worked to better the Police Department's relations with the African American and Latino communities, said Marilyn vice president of Eugene NAACP.