2020 has been a year that will not be easily forgotten. Starting the year with political tensions that almost sent us into World War 3, to the mega-fires in Australia that destroyed huge tracts of land which killed billions of animals and hundreds of it’s citizens, you would come to think that the year couldn’t get worse. Well we were sadly wrong. The Covid-19 pandemic which broke out in Wuhan China and quickly spread worldwide has taken the lives of over 600,000 people worldwide currently and left global leaders and medical professionals scrambling to combat the spread of the virus. Global market crashes caused by business closures and record numbers of unemployment have created a sense of dread among the general public that is evident any time you may turn on the news or check social media.
To add to the overwhelming tension, the senseless murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by the hands of the Minneapolis Minnesota and Louisville Kentucky police have sparked massive protests worldwide; calling for the officers to be held responsible for their actions and for needed reform to the police culture that rarely holds officers accountable for abusing the oath that they swore to protect and serve the members of their communities.
The outrage has quickly grown into the largest civil rights movement in history, prompting calls for defunding police departments and allocating funds to social programs that would be better equipped to handle cases of crisis intervention or mental health. But while the reduction of funding may seem like a simple fix to a complex issue, the ramifications of reducing funding could also cut additional training that is needed to better educate officers on conflict resolution and de-escalation methods.
To touch on these tough issues, we have decided to reach out to one of our own, Mr. Chico Andrews, who happens to be a long time rollerblader and a police officer. We find out what led him to pursue a career in law enforcement and get his perspective on what life is like behind the badge.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Chico. To begin with, can you give us a little background about you and how did you get your start into inline skating initially?
I appreciate you reaching out to me, I’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while now but find it hard to put myself out there like this. Skating has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. My family has a history with skateboarding actually. My uncle was a pro skateboarder on Powell Peralta, Bones Brigade, and House of Kasai Designs back in the 80’s. So skating is a norm within the family. I started rollerblading in 1997 where my parents bought me a pair of Rollerblade Dirks, then met John Anthony who molded me into the skater that I am now.
I then started competing in the ASA Amateur Circuit in Pennsylvania but never made it past amateur. In 2002 I went to Woodward for the first time during the weekend and became friends with Michael Bennett, which lead me to work there from 2005-2007. I stopped skating in 2007 for about 4 years then got back into it. Going back to Woodward, traveling to different events, and even doing a little tour to film with Patrick Andersen. He produced my first Profile “Chico Andrews | 2015 Park & Street Profile”, which got featured on Rollernews. During that month-long tour and throughout my lifestyle of rollerblading, I’ve met a ton of great people and made lifelong friends. Rollerblading has since been a part of my life and hopefully will continue to be, if my family and I will ever feel accepted again. As of right now we don’t even like going out in public if we don’t have to.
Being that most skaters and younger individuals, have a negative opinion of law enforcement, what initially led to you wanting to pursue a career in police enforcement?
So this one is a tough one to talk about, I initially didn’t like cops or any form of law enforcement. Being a skater in the late 90’s early 2000’s and dressing the way we did while trespassing and destroying property with skating, didn’t hold over too well with any form of law enforcement. So as most skaters know running from the law is a common thing. I mentioned John Anthony before, who taught me how to skate, well him and another friend of mine Chris Barr introduced me to the “streets” if you want to put it that way. Once my parents got a divorce I just hung out on the streets with them and partied . We all grew up in rough areas of our city, some in the projects, some in the “hood”, some smack in the middle of both areas, and some even way outside of the city away from the mess. We had our own little crew going back then going from skate spot to skate spot like everyone else, until a local park was built. I had friends like Nate Pagano and the Kozdron brothers who lived outside the city, which was my way of getting away once in a while. As we grew older we split up into different groups of friends but still stayed in touch. We all went on living our separate lives as our friends get shot, die from drug over doses, go to jail for selling drugs, getting into large fights, just the normal thing you’d see in a life like ours. We played games like “gun shots or fireworks?” Well as many years go by, I get married and start to raise a family, some friends follow suit, some join the military, and some friends continued to live the fast live with quick money.
One day out of the blue, John Anthony calls me and tells me he’s he just got released from state and maxed out his sentence. He mentioned he wanted to get back into skating again and eventually bought a pair of Razors SL’s from Long at Oak City Skate Shop. We skated like we haven’t skipped a beat, I got my brother back! Our daughters were around the same age and we talked constantly, skating when we had time between work and family. We made plans to go to Woodward for the first Oak City Inline Weekend. He had never been to camp before so naturally he was excited to make his childhood dream come true. Well, on October 15th 2015 at 3am I get a call from John. I was tired and knew that if I answered the phone I’d be talking for hours. John was one of those friends that if you started talking to him, you’d have to eventually cut the conversation off because if not you’d just continue talking and talking haha. So I ignored the call and planned to call him when I woke up. Instead, I got a call first thing in the morning from his mother telling me that his daughter found him laying on the floor. He died from a drug overdose. His phone was laying next him… I then listened to his voicemail, he just wanted to wish me Happy Birthday! He apologized that he was two days late. He sounded confused and continued to say that he just doesn’t know any more and he’s not sure. Of what I can only imagine.
Well, during the funeral I was given his skates by his family. They said “He’d want you to have them.” His daughter ran over to me when she saw his skates and said “Those are my Daddy’s Rollerblades” she ran over to him and ran back and asked “When’s my Daddy getting up?”, which is when she began to say that he took too much medicine. It was after that where I decided that I needed to do something, so I started the process of being a cop. I vowed that I would do everything I could to help those who are struggling with addiction, to get rid of the supply “dealers”, and treat people the way I was raised to, with respect.
That is an incredibly noble and admirable reason for becoming a police officer. We are very sorry for the loss of your friend John Anthony.
Now, in being a street skater, by nature we are inherently a criminal by way of destruction of private property. How difficult is it to enforce the laws that you are supposed to in your profession but you participate in a sport that is loosely-based in breaking laws?
I get asked this a lot actually! I have never, nor will I ever fine or cite someone for skating, unless the situation gets escalated to something else. Luckily no one has ever given me attitude about being told to leave a property. It’s all about how you approach people. Sometimes people forget where they came from, well I have never forgot. I know what its like to be approached by police who have a bad attitude to start, which creates a situation that wasn’t necessarily there to begin with. Regardless if I’m wearing my badge or just out and about, I always talk to people with respect. I was even taught this during my training/probationary period with the department. The department is all about respect and treating people right. Since I’ve started they have always been that way, I have never been told or shown anything different. But respect has to go both ways in those instances. I’m guilty of it too when I was younger, just getting an attitude because someone with authority was telling me I can’t do something. Which then changes the situation. So, it’s really not that difficult if you can just be human and talk like a normal human being.
Be honest, do you look the other way when you encounter skaters on the job like giving them a pass because you are a skater or do you play it by the book?
If I’m driving by or sitting there and see someone riding bikes or skating I don’t say anything to them. I let them go have fun and do their thing. Now if I notice that things got a little bit extra, then I’ll approach them. I don’t play anything “by the book” that’s just a guideline, I use my discretion in every aspect of policing.
As a police officer, what was your initial reaction to the death of George Floyd and the handling of the police officers responsible for his murder?
I was pissed off! That was a disgrace to our uniform and to the badge. I have never, nor will I ever stand for actions like that, same goes with my department. They wont tolerate it! I myself have been in a very similar situation. I was dealing with a person who was high on LSD, meth, and God knows what else. I was fighting with the guy for sometime and was eventually helped by security and some nurses. We had him on his stomach about to cuff him and another officer from a different department ran over and jumped in to help. Well, he had his knee on his neck. I instantly yelled at him and made him move. The person was going to be taken into the hospital for evaluation, since he was on so many different drugs. We were about to take him in and he started to fight again. The same officer pulled his feet making him tip back and almost hitting his head on the pavement. Luckily a nurse and I were behind him and caught his head. After we got him restrained to the bed in the hospital I pulled that officer aside and laid into him. If something were to happen to him I’d be the one to get hemmed up since it was my call. There are some others instances too where I had to stop an officer who wanted to create a situation that wasn’t there to begin with. I will not stand for it! We’re suppose to wear the badge not the badge wear us!
What in your opinion can be done to fix the systemic problems within police forces and discourage officers from abusing their authority?
In my opinion one of the things is, we ALL need to wear body cams, this will protect all parties involved. It protects the citizens of the city and the officers hired to protect them. This will allow for more accountability and can stop the false reporting on and from officers. The main underlying issue though, is the officer themselves. We can do all the screening possible but there’s no way to learn or predict someone’s “intent” prior to any action. An officer’s intent is only known to them until it’s too late. That goes for any field. You can’t predict a doctor’s intent until it’s too late and they are being charged for inappropriate actions. That’s very tough to fix and way above my pay grade, hahahaha.
How difficult is it to work in a profession knowing that there are bad police officers in your ranks, but being a whistleblower in your job, as in most jobs, is discouraged?
Luckily the officers in my department are all good people now. I can’t say it has always been that way, like I mentioned earlier, I’ve been a victim of “bad cop” behavior here. For the most part our departments are filled with ranks of good police officers. To answer your question though, I can see how it would be tough for some to be a whistleblower. Because once you challenge another cop for their actions and or tell your Sergeant about something, then you’re looked at as a snitch. Just like you’re looked at as a snitch on the streets if you report criminal activity or someone selling drugs. Just like the code on the streets there is and will always be a code in the departments. For the most part though, all of us officers who are here for the right reason don’t have a problem “telling” on another officer if they had questionable actions. We don’t stand for it! Why is it looked bad to be a “snitch”? You’re making your city better and or the workforce better.
I put on this badge to be the change I want to see in my city. So I’m not going to let anyone or any situation discourage me and put down my badge. Imagine if all the cops who have good intentions put down the badge. Who would be left in the police force?
Part of the discussion of police reform is to dial back the militarization of the police force and to work towards allocating funds towards social programs that address issues like poverty, homelessness and mental disorders. Do you feel that in your position as a police officer that you are stretched thin playing so many different roles, such of peace officer, mental health counselor or crisis intervention?
We as police officers have to wear many hats when we’re out on the streets. So as to cities allocating more funds for different programs, I’m all for it. We are not mental health specialists but are often called by crisis to handle these types of situation or by dispatch to “Check on the Welfare”. That’s not what police are for, we can assist them if needed but we can’t be crisis too. Our cities definitely need to have more programs available and to be well funded to maintain but to take money to de-militarize our police is not needed. We go out there and fight some evil that is well armed and, in some cases, trained. For us to be prepared and ensure that we all go home safe, we need certain tools to accomplish the mission at hand. It’s not always needed but there are tools for every job. As for our poverty and homelessness within our country, that’s a whole different subject but does come into play and is very important.
There are certain jobs that have far less responsibility that surprisingly have longer training periods than police officers.In your opinion, do you feel like you have adequate training in conflict resolution or de-escalation methods or would you feel it to be more beneficial to expand on that training?
Most definitely. We go through many stages during each shift and wear many hats and need to expand on our initial training as our career continues. We are trained with the basics of each aspect of policing and learn as we continue our career. We go through extensive training that touches on so many different aspects of our job that we don’t get to spend as much as needed on certain areas. I do believe that our training needs to be expanded before we wear the badge and especially while we’re with our department. But in order to do this and make a better police force, we need funds to do such things. Most cities or departments don’t have the extra funds to send everyone to additional training or for the academies to expand on their training. That’s has been something talked about for quite sometime now but we’re all struggling financially to pay for these things. Sometimes we have to pay for our training on our own and go on our own time. This wont get any easier with the “Defund Police” movement either. If we are struggling to pay officers and pay for training, what do you think is going to happen when more money is taken away? Oh, we have already seen that in New York these past few days when they took 1 billion from the police budget. God help us if this trend continues.
What within police training could use amending, if anything, in your opinion?
We need less lethal tools. Some cities are taking away our less lethal options and leaving the officer with pretty much one option, a firearm for defense. That’s not a good thing at all. We need less lethal tools and more training on them.
Statistical numbers have shown that both African-Americans and white individuals have similar rates of drug use, yet African-Americans are almost three times more likely to be arrested. We know that nowhere does it say to racially profile individuals but officers are taught to “criminally profile”, which might also be based in racial stereotypes. In your opinion, do you feel that there are noticeable biases (race/gender/sex/socio-economic) that are prevalent within law enforcement?
I can only speak on my personal statistics and what I have experienced, I’m not a person who likes to look those things up. By me doing that is not me turning a blind eye to some of those things because profiling does exist and happens a lot. I don’t want someone reading this and only taking that away thinking that I don’t care about it. I base my work off the area I’m working and the work I’ve done. So, I have noticed that there are similar rates of drug use on both sides but its not that simple. I’ve understood that there are two sides to drug use, the supply and the demand. In this area, where we are known as “Little Philly”, the supply is coming from predominantly African-Americans and the demand is coming from predominantly Caucasians. Not saying ALL but way more often then not. This all goes back to culture, family, and education though. The street life and fast money is idolized by the younger generations, regardless of race or ethnicity.
Imagine waking up as a child and seeing your Mom still sleeping on the couch and having to wake her up to get you ready for school, every day. Not once does she wake up to go to work. Dad isn’t in the picture and if he is, he’s there for a brief moment but comes in with money. Your Mom doesn’t really ask how school was when you get home and is always hanging out partying. Your education or lack of education proves to work against you and your family. Your family members are the same way. But you have food on the table, clothes on your back, and are provided for. Come to find out that the money comes from the streets. As you play with your friends you see their families are doing similar things. That’s all you know growing up. So what are being molded to become?
On the flip side. Imagine waking up for school as a child, with your Mom making you breakfast before she goes to work every morning. Your Dad says his goodbyes before he heads of to work or he’s coming in from the night shift to see you off to school. You get home and you are made to do your homework and chores before heading out of the house to go play with your friends. You have dinner together and repeat the process. You have food on your table, clothes on your back, provided for, and have a possibility of future education. That’s all you know growing up. So what are you molded to become? To me it’s not about black or white. It’s about family, culture and education.
Do you feel there is a problem rooted in how officers are trained to always be on guard and to be overly defensive and how that training plays into their own stereotypes and fears that are already instilled in them?
If an officer has their own preconceived notion or ideals of certain stereotypes, then it could have an effect on how they handle things out there on the job. But there is no training that instills fear in an officer to act certain ways. Fear comes from within that officer and can work for or against them. I’ll be honest I get scared out there on certain calls for sure. The shootings, physical domestics, armed subjects, active fights, high speed chases, you name it. I was scared! For me it helps me think slower for some reason and react accordingly. Those situations and training for those situations don’t put me on guard and overly defensive though. What puts me on guard and overly defensive is the job coming home with me and being a part of my families daily life.
See, being a cop doesn’t just end when you take the uniform and badge off, especially if you police in the city where you grew up and live. I’ll give you an example. I’m involved in various aspects of policing other than working my beat. With that said, one of my investigations lead to our team taking down a high level individual, then his replacement, and others involved. They figured out who I was simply because my name is on all of their paperwork and their charges, then they see me in the court room. Long story short, I was informed of this and to watch my back. We as cops are told not to take the same routes home because of situations like this. So, I continued to do so and was always aware of my surroundings. Well this group managed to follow me still and eventually came to my home. It ended up with two men coming to my home in the middle of the night and me having my firearm on one of them. That’s were my fear comes from, that’s were my being on guard comes from, and that’s why I’m defensive. This is real life, not a movie.
People are quick to point out the error in police officers profiling individuals based on their outward appearances but also feel no problem in labeling all police officers as bad people as they feel they are upholding a system that is systemically biased. What is your opinion on individuals that judge the entirety of a group by the few individuals who are breaking the law?
It’s wrong on both sides and honestly flat out counterproductive. Simply because someone wears a badge and abuses their power in an aggressive manor doesn’t make everyone who wears that uniform aggressive and abusive. Simply because someone lives in a trailer park with a white tank top and jean shorts doesn’t make them out to be some trailer trash drunken drug addict. Simply because you’re a young black teen who lives in the projects but still is able to dress nice and pay for things doesn’t mean they’re a drug dealer. Those examples I just gave are stereotypes that most people can actually visualize as they read it. This is unfortunate but true. Labeling or profiling is human nature and is something everyone does, whether they admit it or not.
With all of the social unrest and negative public perception of your profession, how do you work to build trust within a community that have had bad experiences with police officers in the past?
I make sure I treat everyone with respect and treat them the way I’d want to be treated during any given situation. Being understanding is were it all comes back to in the end. I can’t change what someone has done in the past or change how someone thinks. I can only make sure I act accordingly and hopefully that makes a lasting impression on each person I come in contact with on the job or not. You know, more often then not, it’s not what you said to a person that is going to be remembered. It’s how made them feel. I have vowed not to change as a person simply because I have been given a uniform and badge. I still go out and interact with kids if I see them, I get into water fights, I play catch or basketball, I’ll even just sit there and jam out to music with them for a while. These kids out here are very important to our growth as a community, and as a country. What our kids go through or are subject to is what they will remember and is most likely going to have a lasting impact on their future. I am still approached to this day by kids that I have interacted with while in uniform. It is taboo for these kids to approach or interact with police because of the court of public opinion. So to have them flag me down and stop to cut it up for a bit is an honor!
We recently did an interview with Philip Moore for the site, in which you may have took offense to certain things stated within the article. Can you give us a little clarification on the things that you took offense to so we can further address the issue in question?
I did read the interview with Philip Moore and was very impressed with his courage to speak his mind on how he felt about the current situation and his life experiences. This is not an easy task. I had to stop and take a breather during this interview many times myself. I respect Philip Moore and enjoy watching him skate. We disagree on things yeah, but I will always be available to shred with him and give him a place to stay if he is ever in the area. What I took away from his interview is that some people seem to forget that racism is real and is still alive. Which is unfortunate. Being looked at a certain way and approached differently is something he spoke about and is something I am very familiar with myself. Being mixed and coming from the streets myself I was always looked at different and treated different in certain situations. Simply because of how I looked and dressed. In fact I still get it because I haven’t changed, I’m still Chico. Well except I don’t wear bandanas with matching Dickies suites anymore or baggy cargo pocket sweatpants with Timberland boots anymore hahahahaha.
But to touch on something he said that was very disheartening was “BURN IT ALL DOWN”. We as a country do need to step back and take a look at how we became a country, what kind of country we are, and what kind of country we want to be. Come together as one and be the change we want to see. To burn it all down is counterproductive. When George Floyd’s murder came out to the public, we had the podium. We had the opportunity to take this platform and hopefully make change and speak out against these kind of actions. Once people started to break into business to steal shoes and burn down businesses that peoples lives depend on, that took it all away. Now that platform is not looked at the same and is considered to be unruly. Let me tell you about my families experience with this whole civil unrest. Once the rioting started we knew what was coming. The threats or attacks on white families and police where inevitable. That is exactly what started happening too. Departments started getting phone calls and threats to the officers. Social media platforms were readily available for groups to put out threats and calling for all to follow suite. So our Chief put it out to all officers to be on alert since there were individuals coming to hold up to their end of the bargain. Burn down buildings and businesses, kill cops, attack white families, go into white neighborhoods and burn it down. Guess what we are a police family, we are considered to be white, and we live right across the street (a stones throw away) from the shopping plaza; in an area to be considered a “White Neighborhood”.
Well we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t in all counts. So the day the Chief sent that out to all the officers, I went home and informed the family (minus the little one) then proceeded to have them get a 3 day bug out bag ready with a pair of shoes next to it. I also loaded up every magazine in our house, that took an easy hour plus. My wife and I then started gathering up all our important documents, emptying the safe, and taking all our prized possessions off the walls and shelves. We then gathered them together and placed them in our SUV, all just in case. We lived like this for weeks! Our kids lived out of their go bags for weeks! Our family lived in fear for weeks! Why? So you can “BURN IT DOWN” and start over!? We have done nothing to deserve this. My wife and children did nothing to deserve this. Simply because I chose to be a cop and become the change I wanted to see. To fight the war on drugs which is killing more people then all this put together! But nope, we have to watch over our shoulders while pumping gas. We have to be armed just to go freaking grocery shopping. My children want to go down the street to play with their friends but we worry so much that they’re going to get approached and jumped just for living in a “White neighborhood” or being white! God forbid someone finds out that they’re children of a cop! I’ll be on duty and my wife will tell me she’s going to the store on her way home and I’ll worry that she makes it home without being bullied or attacked. One of my partners wife’s was approached because she had a Thin Blue Line ring on, then more people started joining in aggressively! AT THE GROCERY STORE! This is not America! This is not the right way to let your voice be heard. This is not the way to approach these types of situations. I was silent and tried to hide the fact that I’m a cop and that we are a Thin Blue Line family. But not now, I won’t stand for this anymore!
I’d like to end with this though. I support the protests against this sickening behavior from people who are trusted to wear a badge and call themselves a cop. But not the destruction, violence, and abuse. Something definitely needs to be done. Change is needed. We can only have change if we are united as a country. Not as Black, White, Hispanic, or Asian but together as Americans. We all have flaws. America and our history especially has flaws. Let’s learn from our history and grow from it so it doesn’t repeat itself.
Each and every one of you reading this have flaws and a history that they are not proud of. That made you learn and be a better person, I hope. Your past doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re still that person does it? Your PAST made you who you are TODAY so you can be someone TOMORROW!
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