The Oak Park Citizen Police Oversight Commission (CPOC) gained a new commissioner in Curtis Lott Feb. 18. Following the tumultuous appointment of Jack Powers to CPOC earlier this month, it was all smooth sailing for Lott, who received unanimous approval from the village board.
“I look forward to the opportunity to hopefully be able to give some input that is helpful and can be used in a progressive way,” Lott said.
Before Lott’s appointment to the seven-member commission, CPOC only had one commissioner of color, something that raised eyebrows considering the historically troubled relationship in America between police and people of color.
“As an African American, I do have a different view because my experiences are different,” Lott said in an interview with the Journal. “The experiences that an African American has had with police is different than the experiences that a Caucasian has had.”
According to Lott, the greater African- American community distrusts the police. Accepting that people of color and white people have different experiences with police, Lott believes, is crucial in moving forward.
“I don’t think we need to ignore it; we don’t need to argue. We need to accept it and once it’s accepted, then we change it,” he said.
As a CPOC commissioner, Lott plans to listen to all sides of each matter from a perspective of understanding, not bias.
“I’m not coming in with the approach of criticizing,” he said. “My dad always told me, ‘There’s always three sides to every story: your side, my side and what really happened.'”
Lott believes his experiences and his openminded personality may benefit CPOC.
“I’m accustomed to adversity and I try to understand your perspective of it,” he said.
“You can’t get anywhere until you accept each view. Once you accept their views, then you come up with a resolution.”
For Lott, understanding is the key to success while working in a group.
“You have to move from the ‘me and I’ to the ‘we and us,'” he said. “When you do that, your directives are different because you’re not just looking at what I want; you’re looking at what we need to make this relationship work.”
Lott came to Oak Park 1983. Not long after, he met his wife. The couple has two sons, one of whom owns Cajun Boil & Bar, 1109 South Blvd. His other son is a first responder in New Jersey.
In addition to CPOC, Lott serves on the Citizen Involvement Commission and has for the past two years.
He believes that people cannot come to an understanding without listening to each other.
“Everybody wants to be heard, but no one wants to listen,” he said. “When I listen, I digest what you say, and it changes my perspective toward you and the situation.”