How To Talk To The Police When They Show Up To Bust You For Skating Hills[wptouch target=”mobile”]
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.