Clarksburg WV

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Making History

By John Paul Nardelli

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As we approach the celebration of Martin Luther King Day, the City of Clarksburg is pleased to recognize its first black Police Chief in history, Robbie Hilliard.  Hilliard, who has served the Clarksburg Police Department for twenty-five (25) years, was recently promoted to the position of Chief on December 16, 2013, after having served as the Interim Police Chief for six (6) months.  Hilliard’s new responsibilities include the overall management and daily operations of the department, in addition to acting as the liaison for the department in providing the citizens with the best service and safety possible.  The following is a Q & A session in which Hilliard explains what it means to be the first black Police Chief in Clarksburg.      

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You were recently appointed to the position of Police Chief for the city of Clarksburg.  What kind of emotions come from you being the first African-American to serve in this position?

To begin, I would have to say that it is a true honor and privilege to accomplish such a large goal of mine in becoming the Chief of Police for the City of Clarksburg. When I first began working with the Department in 1989, one of my mentor’s, Raymond Mazza, encouraged me to work as hard as I could to be in the position of Chief one day.  Until that point it hadn’t crossed my mind, however, I believe that his challenge is what motivated me to be the best officer I could be.  As far as being the first black Police Chief for Clarksburg, I would say that it is something that I am very proud of.  Although I don’t equate my race with my abilities and duties as an officer of the law, I think that I would be lying if I said that it didn’t make me proud.  Historically African-Americans have been through a lot of tribulation, and it is an honor and privilege to be on the receiving end of all the hard work that prior generations of leaders laid before me.  I believe that it is a testament to my family and the black community at large that we are able to celebrate equality in Clarksburg. 

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Do you believe that being in the position will/ has impact the black community in Clarksburg?

You know, I was fortunate to grow up in a time period where we could celebrate our culture.  Unlike generations prior, we were able to enjoy the freedoms the God has embedded within life itself.  My being appointed as the first black Chief of Police for Clarksburg may not have a direct impact on today’s community, but I believe that it speaks volumes to the timelessness of equality.  It is refreshing to not only read Dr. Martin Luther King’s Dream but to participate in its waking.

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African American’s are a minority in Clarksburg, however, their dedication to honoring and paying respects to their cultural history is something that is very prevalent.  At this year’s annual Black Heritage Festival, you were recognized for your service to the City as Interim Chief.  What is it about your position that particularly makes the black community proud?

I believe, like any culture, it is important to have role models for the youth to look up to.  I was honored to receive such distinguishing recognition at the Black Heritage Festival; however, I recognized it as more of a challenge than an accolade.  Police Officers are pillars of the community, and people often look to them as not only authority figures, but symbols of protection and service.  Upon receiving the recognition this year, and being appointed to the position of Chief, I have come to realize the importance of maintaining the positive image that I was acknowledged for.  I will continue striving to be an example in the community and hope that being recognized at the Black Heritage Festival has inspired other African-Americans to do the same.

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Although you were only 18 days old when Dr. Martin Luther King gave his inspirational I have a Dream speech, I am certain that you have grown up to know the value of freedom and liberation.  In his speech, Dr. King speaks of providing a “solid rock of brotherhood,” in order to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”  In working with the culturally diverse police department, what colorations can you make in wanting to provide justice to the community as a brotherhood?

One of the greatest attributes of being an Officer of the Law is working on a team.  We have men and women, from all different backgrounds and walks of life, and yet we are able to work closely as a team.  I think that the correlation that I can make between the brotherhood, which Dr. King is talking about, and the relationships that we have within the department, is that we share in a similar goal of providing justice for the underprivileged and those at risk.  Although we stand together today to fight different types of injustices, we can share in the idea in providing respect for all of our citizens.     

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Later in his speech, Dr. King points out that many of the Negros in America were the victims of police brutality.  How do you think Dr. King would respond to a coming of age where a black man would serve as Police Chief in a predominantly white community?

I think that Dr. King would be overjoyed.  Upon being appointed Police Chief, I realized that no one had pointed out the fact that I was the first black Police Chief in Clarksburg.  Even though I knew I was to be the first, I was surprised that no one had pointed it out.  After some time had passed, I began to appreciate the fact that I was now a part of Dr. King’s Dream.  I believe Dr. King would be proud that a man would be appointed Chief because of his abilities and not because of his color.  In many ways I believe that he would be proud that African-Americans are now given leadership positions in the community and represent the good.  African-Americans were once the victims of police cruelty, and Dr. King would be overjoyed I am sure, that the race which was once the victim of discrimination, is now privileged to be the example of true justice.   

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