How To Talk To The Police When They Show Up To Bust You For Skating Hills

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Authority Figures


Adam Crigler talks to NYPD. Dude was totally chill about it, but we had to go.

Sooner or later, everyone who likes to ride skateboards will find himself the subject of police attention. While we can do our best to avoid law enforcement situations by riding safe, being courteous, and strategically timing sessions to avoid traffic and irate neighbors, it only takes one jerk with a mobile phone to call the cops, and the police have to come when they’re called.

If you think someone’s about to call the police on you, the best thing to do is leave the spot before the cops show up. When it comes to words to live by, “don’t get caught” is second only to “treat others like you want to be treated.”

But sometimes you can’t get away clean and end up dealing with the cops. One or two police usually respond to skateboarding complaints. When they show up, be polite and respectful. In my experience, cops can be broken down into three broad categories, each requiring its own strategy.

First, you’ve got the stoked cop. Rare outside the West Coast and the Southwest, this cop used to skate when he was in high school, has never seen anyone bomb hills like this, and is stoked on the crazy shit kids are into these days. He got a call, but skateboarding in the road isn’t expressly illegal and he can’t really tell you to leave. He knows this way steeper hill across town that you should check out. Stoked cops are rare, but they’re out there. The Texas guys told me about a 70mph hill where the police will close the road so they can skate. When stoked cop shows up, show him how you skate safe, let him try your board, and remember that cops aren’t all assholes.

Second, and by far the most common, is the “I’m just doing my job” cop. These cops don’t really care about kids skateboarding in the road, they just got a call and really don’t want to have to deal with a kid bouncing off a car. They’re showing up to kick you out, but they have no beef with you. Show them some respect and they’ll show respect back. On the flipside, give him attitude and this cop will ruin your day. Remember that this cop didn’t decide to come shut down your skate session because he hates skateboarding, he came out because it’s his job to respond to calls.

Third, and fortunately rare in my experience, is the power-tripping asshole cop. He—and it’s always a he—might have been bullied in high school, he might be small in stature or endowment, or maybe he’s just an asshole, but for whatever reason he’s going to be the boss of you. He wants to feel like he has power over you, so the best thing you can do is play along and give him the “yes sir, no sir” responses that make him feel like a man. It’s bullshit—cops shouldn’t have power like that—but cops can totally ruin your week, so just go along with that shit so you can get back to skating.

In general, you want to keep your mouth shut as much as possible when you’re dealing with the police. If the cop didn’t personally witness you skate, don’t admit to skating: standing around the top of a hill with a bunch of downhill skateboards isn’t illegal. The words “am I free to go?” can be your friend, but “I know my rights” is not usually a good move. Give respect to get respect. Make their lives easy and they won’t make your life difficult.

All this goes out the window with security guards. Security guards have no real power, so you can get away with talking shit and/or running away from them. That might not be a good long-term strategy, but there’s something to be said for having fun at the man’s expense.

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There are 28 comments

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  1. Sammy Parks

    this is great!
    also it should be mentioned that sometimes neighbors are like the three categories mentioned. similar respect gets respect motto, except they dont have any power until they call the cops.
    remember it is easier to leave the hill for the day then to keep skating and blow the hill for months.

  2. Charlie Marshall

    I deal with more power tripping assholes on the Canadian east coast. But once in a while, rare like you said, there will be the one odd cop that'll clock your speed and chat your ear off.

  3. Michael Floyd

    Going across Canada we were pulled over dozens of times all over the country, seen all 3 of these (with the exception that we've experienced female officers in all these categories – but nicely done, Max!!) Showing them respect and not pulling attitude fixed EVERY situation! Even when we were not allowed to continue by a #3 20 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean just outside of Victoria!! Yet we discovered a solution that worked and took that route. Want to make the greater skater community look better, do this regardless of the temptation to express your "rights" (everyone has the "right" to have a shitty day handed to them by those that don't understand it's a 2-way street, too). This can only affect positive change!!

  4. Jake Alexander Hudson

    No idea who's going to read this, but there's also the power tripping security guards. A guy complained cuz a board went up his driveway, so a San Diego General Security Guard came up to try and kick me out. I asked what i was doing illegally, and he said skateboarding is against the law. I then explained that in CA, skateboards are considered of the same type as a road bicycle, and that he can't make me stop skating. He got so angry and confused and just sat in his truck for like an hour trying to decide what to do.

  5. Jake Alexander Hudson

    Cameron Olson Just the power trip guys who feel the need to boss people around, i've met a few chill guys

  6. Spencer Oakley

    So true- Iv'e had this dick guy in a car slowly drive past, and pull out his phone. Two minutes later, while watching from around the corner, I see a cruiser pull up. inside is this one guy who thinks he's a manly man and wears body armor in one of the nicest neighborhoods in the chicago burbs. The other is this semifat chick with short hair. They both got out and started sniffing around like they were Sherlock Homes and Watson, acting like busting skaters was a glorious and righteous pursuit. Luckily, I ditched when they started coming toward me, but wow! Lake forest cops…

  7. Eric Owen

    Know your rights….. "I hereby invoke and refuse to waive all of the following rights and privileges afforded to me by the U.S. Constitution:-I invoke and refuse to waive my Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. DO NOT ASK ME ANY QUESTIONS.
    -I invoke and refuse to waive my Sixth Amendment right to an attorney of my choice. DO NOT ASK ME ANY QUESTIONS WITHOUT MY ATTORNEY PRESENT.
    -I invoke and refuse to waive all privileges and right pursuant to the case Miranda v. Arizona. DO NOT ASK ME ANY QUESTIONS OR MAKE ANY COMMENT TO ME ABOUT THIS DECISION.
    -I invoke and refuse to waive my Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. I DO NOT CONSENT TO ANY SEARCH OR SEIZURE OF MYSELF, MY HOME, OR OF ANY PROPERTY IN MY POSSESSION. Do not ask me about my ownership interest in any property. I DO NOT CONSENT TO THIS CONTACT WITH YOU. If I am not presently under arrest or under investigatory detention, please ALLOW ME TO LEAVE.
    -Any statement I make, or alleged consent I give, in response to your questions is hereby UNDER PROTEST AND UNDER DURESS and in submission to your claim of lawful authority to force me to provide you with the information.

  8. Chris Barker

    Always ask for the cop's card, then put some notes on the back (e.g. cop was super cool and saw no problem with me skating there). If you have a stack of "good cop" cards they can come in handy the next time a "bad cop" shows up to run you off.

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