Officers on Board

Officers on Board

The idea came to me a couple years ago at our local Kenroy Skate Camp in East Wenatchee, WA. I was visiting with off-duty Wenatchee Police Officer Shawndra Duke as we watched her son participating. It was obvious to us that both skateboarders and police officers are often misunderstood. Not to mention misunderstood by one another. I asked her if she would be interested in collaborating on an event to get her fellow law enforcement officers out to the skatepark and on boards. She said yes and thought she could get a few at least. Not surprisingly she shared that many of the officers would not likely be fond of the idea after their experiences with skaters. I laughed and said that many of the skaters would respond the same way due to their experience with cops. She laughed as well.

Backtracking close to 10 years ago I made an appointment with a since retired Wenatchee PD officer to try and see how we could work together to overcome legacy issues. She made it very clear, “Mike, I appreciate what you are trying to do here, but you will never receive the endorsement of our Department.” Initially my heart sank, except having paid for a 3 year span police report for Pioneer Park (where our only skatepark is located in Wenatchee), it seemed fitting to look at the details. Over the following half hour we went through the report which indicated that Pioneer Park was the 3rd highest call location for the WPD during this time. What I was able to point out during our review was that line after line we found it was not the skatepark or skateboarders that were the real issues. It was more often than not, just a park in the south end of town that had problems long before the skatepark was built. Kind of guilty by location association. When I was a kid, there was a tennis court where the skatepark is currently located and it was still the place that everyone would meet to fight after school and a lot of bullying took place. Out of site out of mind from both schools for the most part.

WV Make A Difference Day 2015

Wrapping up my conversation with Officer Duke, I felt like we should put a name to it and thought of ‘Officers on Board.’ We decided to stay in touch and plan it out in the coming months. A couple years went by and like many of my ideas, my work schedule just was not allowing me to plan it out and execute. In light of the horrible things that have been happening to Police Officers around U.S. this year and the fact that I got a new job, I felt it was time to get our event on the calendar. I proceeded to contact and set an appointment with my new found ally in the Wenatchee PD. My thought was to plan ahead and promote the event for our upcoming Make A Difference Day October 24th. Shawndra was excited and very accommodating. Not only did she get the Police Guild to donate hot dogs, condiments etc. along with bottled water, but she also came to my house and loaded up my BBQ in her truck to use at the event. Her Captain had special matching shirts made and there were a total of 4 officers that made it out to the event. In addition, I also contacted one of our City Council Members, Bryan Campbell who was running for Mayor. He not only showed up, but wasted no time in getting on board with the police officers. Bryan is a longtime Wenatchee Reserve Officer and is highly respected by the Department. The skater’s that showed up enjoyed the interaction and conversation with ‘the cops.’ We were all stoked out when one of them landed a clean kickflip. Our local newspaper, The Wenatchee World contacted me and covered our event for close to an hour with a reporter and photographer. Much to our pleasant surprise, we made the front page of Sunday’s paper the next day. The reporter and one of the main Wenatchee Make a Difference Day organizer’s both shared with me that ours was on the top of their list out of 63 local events that day. They felt it was unique, interesting and really what making a difference is all about. Thinking outside the box and giving back to our community. Another surprise was about 10 people from a local church who showed up to show support for our cause. They all gathered together that morning and headed out to an event that they wanted to get behind. I could feel the past walls of misunderstanding coming down throughout the day and stereotypes being overcome. Conversations were taking place all around the park with smiles on everyone’s faces.

WV Make A Difference Day 2015-3

Officer Shawndra Duke skating with her son Colton.

Towards the end of our scheduled time, I was able to have a conversation with the Police Captain present. We discussed how we could move forward with our collective efforts. I asked if he could help with the only true maintenance issue at the skatepark (graffiti). I was given the green light about 3 years ago to have some of the skaters do a Pacific Northwest themed mural in the bowl only to be shut down when we turned in the sketch. There was nothing inappropriate about the drawing, it was just going too well so the City decided to involve the Arts Commission, Parks Department and City Council. Red Tape City! We tabled the idea until now. The Captain understood how beneficial murals are for retaining walls along with public utility boxes in our area and it’s no different for skateparks. He assured me that he was in our corner and would help us push it through.

WV Make A Difference Day 2015-2

Progress was made on many different levels at Wenatchee’s Make a Difference Day at Pioneer Park this year. Eyes were opened to many possibilities from several perspectives at our Officers on Board event. Our goal was local results with a positive impact at the national level by our example. It’s always good to let your skating do the talking, however sometimes you have to talk about your skating to help others understand why we do what we do. Now we have a fresh start with soon-to-be fresh paint and hopefully tons more concrete in our future.

WV Make A Difference Day 2015-4

Mike Leeds, Officer Cory Bernaiche (who stomped the kickflip) and Officer Duke.

Don’t wait for next October to make a difference in your community. As much as your schedule permits, try to make a difference every day and work with everyone, including the men & women in blue. Most of them are cool if you give them a chance and some can even skate. The secret is: Forgive and forget to develop mutual respect!