Don’t Quit Your Day Job – Chuck Wampler

Chuck Wampler Police Officer

In a large Southern California metropolis, gangs and drugs run the streets, and the frontline of defense against often violent crimes is the patrol officer. For four years, Chuck Wampler has served his community as a policeman and dealt with some of the nastier aspects of big-city life, as well as fostering community relations programs and involvement. He has seen a lot more than most may ever hope to see in the movies, but still manages to keep a positive outlook on his work and its role in society. Chuck says he enjoys the flexible work hours as it allows him to fit in skating and is proud of the fact that he’s the first responder to many intense situations and the responsibility that comes with that.

A former professional for Toxic Skates and a keen pool and park shredder, Chuck dealt with transitions the way he now deals with crime-with necessary force. He is not the cop who says, “I used to skate.” He is the cop who still skates and still rips.

Have you ever had skating interrupt your job or ruin your reputation at work?

Not really. Generally, I think the guys that I work with in my division are pretty well-rounded people. But it was funny when I first started probation. Probation is your first eleven months out in the field. It’s kind of where you really learn everything, so you’re in a subservient position, meaning that you’re under the supervision of your training officer. Everything is, “Yes, sir. No, maam.” So here you are, your very first day. You could imagine putting on a uniform, but you don’t know anything about this job. You’re just kinda nervous. Not only are you nervous about the streets, but also you’re nervous about all the officers-it’s kind of like your first day at school. They say, “Okay, gimme your ‘One minute one second.'” You get up for one minute one second and tell them about yourself. So I stand there and say, “Hi, my name is Chuck Wampler.” And one of the officers out of the roll call room says, “What did you do before you got on the job, man?” Most people are going, “Well, I was in college” or “I was in the Marines” or “I sold cars,” but I’m a dumbshit. I should have just lied, but I’m like, “I was a professional skateboarder for a couple of years and I still skateboard now.” I got pelted with paper and pencils and got, “Get the f-k out of here, you f-king skater fag.”

On the first day?

Yeah, dude, and I’m thinking, “I guess that was a mistake.” Then again I thought about it, and it’s like, “F-k these people,” and I sat down. Even to this day you hear stupid remarks and shit, but back then I couldn’t talk back. The best thing was these dorks were calling me, “Hey, Tony Hawk, go get me that shotgun.” I was just like, “Dude, you’re a retard!”

Have you ever had skating-related injuries affect your work?

A couple of times I’ve shown up at work pretty beat up and sore, but not unable to work. There’ve been a couple times where I got hurt, but at least I had a few days off before I got back to work. Hopefully it stays that way.

What’s the gnarliest incident or injury you’ve seen on the job?

Oh shit, I guess that’s homicides. I remember the very first homicide I ever went to. Some gangster got shot in the head in his car while leaving an auto-parts store. I guess he pissed off somebody in his own gang, so they did a little housecleaning-came by and shot this guy in the head. I remember I was eating lunch. I was only two months into the job, and I showed up and there’s all these people crowded around and everyone’s screaming at each other and my training officer is yelling at me ’cause I’m just staring and this guy’s head was blown off. Like, “Wow look at those brains,” and my training officer says, “Dude, snap out of it, man. Go get the crime-scene tape, set it all up. Go get these people out of here. They can’t be getting in the middle of crime scene.” So I’m hustling around putting the crime scene up, directing people while people areelling at us. All of a sudden the family shows up and they’re all screaming, you know? As if I was the one that killed him. And I’m like, “Eh, back up, you can’t do that.” But then after everyone cleared away and everything was said and done, I remember looking in the car and just being like, “Wow, that’s what brains look like. Holy smokes.” That was kind of like my introduction, and after a while, it’s just like whatever. The saying goes, “New cops lose their lunch at a good homicide and the senior officers eat their lunch.” You can stomach a bit more.

What are some of the rewards of your job?

As far as reasons for getting into the job, I think just about everyone who gets into police work has something in them that’s altruistic-they want to help people. I think the more you get on your job, the more you start feeling like a mercenary. You’re just thinking this arrest will be good for court time, I’ll get some money out of this-but that’s a defense mechanism. I don’t think most coppers want to show a fuzzy side, like, “I really enjoyed holding the hand of this guy” and “I feel good that I helped this family.” There are so many radio calls you get, so many cases that, after a while, you start forgetting about stuff that you’ve done and look at it as you’re in society. Society is a big engine, and you’re just a gear or belt or sparkplug or whatever. You’re just a component, but a valuable component, because without it, the engine doesn’t run. To me, it’s a reward knowing that at least I’m doing something productive. I’m not just a parasite that’s collecting social security for nothing. That’s the way I look at it.

Was there any one particular incident that made you decide to become a police officer?

There are a couple. I think a lot of it has to do with just seeing everything that’s wrong on the eleven o’clock news or stepping out your front door and seeing things that aren’t right, particularly with gang violence. A lot of social issues are addressed every day in my line of work, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that I think everyone other than cops is dirty or that I feel that I’m perfect. It’s a hard job not to be a hypocrite in some ways. You have to uphold this standard of what’s called “The Law.” But everyone has their own interpretations of what the law is, only we as police officers or attorneys or people involved in the legal field really know every single definition about the way the law is. Like when someone says, “Well, I don’t understand. I just slapped my lady in the head and that’s all it was-just an argument.” Well, domestic-violence laws say that if you’re in a relationship with this woman, an intimate relationship, you can’t use physical violence or else you can be subjected to felony charges. People don’t understand that, especially people who have come from other countries. Where I work, there’s a very large immigrant population, so they don’t understand these laws. They don’t understand why they’re being put away in jail. They think it’s okay to beat their wives every night. They don’t see anything wrong with that, and you have to tell them, “Dude, you can’t punch your wife and knock her teeth out just ’cause she didn’t cook your chicken right.”

Any other incidents?

I was shot in a robbery. Obviously it kinda presents a perspective, not only being shot and being a victim of crime, but also looking at it through the whole court process and watching what happened. How the case was dispositioned at the end was kind of sobering. Particularly in some of the big cities, you’ll find that the legal system is so flooded that people just literally use the revolving door. Criminals can do the craziest stuff in a big city compared to a smaller county. I don’t understand how this guy is going to get five years for shooting me four times and the DAs that are working the case just shrug their shoulders and say, “It’s a great deal, and we did get a conviction.” It’s like a lot of these DAs and attorneys, man, they’re a joke. They don’t care anything about the whole tail end of it. Like, “Maybe we should pursue this case and not plea out for this deal. We should get him whatever he’s willing to take, so let’s go ahead and give him five years even though he deserves twenty and we can pat ourselves on the back because we got a conviction and it makes me look better in my career. I can climb the rope and advance to a higher level of attorney and as an officer.” At least I feel I have an obligation to present a solid arrest and to try the best I can, and if I’m going to arrest somebody, it’s going to be for something good.

All skaters at one point or another experience some kind of hassle from The Man from time to time. How does it feel to be on the other side of the badge?

It’s funny when I work, especially where I work, when I see the few kids skating-I’m stoked to see them skate. So there’s been a couple of times where I’ve been like, “Come on over here real quick,” and they think I’m gonna bust them or something, but I’m like, “What are you doing, dude? Set up that trash can and backside 180 it.” Then they freak out-I grab the board and mess around and talk with some kids. A lot of times we don’t have time to do that, but I just can’t picture giving a kid a ticket for skating where I work. As lame as it sounds, even a kid Rollerblading I can’t imagine. I’m so used to seeing kids that are involved in drugs, straight up twelve-year-old kids who carry guns and have tattoos on their faces that are gangsters-assholes. The way they view society is they wake up in the morning, they eat their cereal, and then all they think about is what car they’re going to steal or how they’re going to rob somebody or shoot someone. And so here you have a group of kids and they’re waking up and their thinking about if they’re going to hit the twelve-stair rails today or not. I’m thinking that’s so constructive, how can you knock that? But I’ve been to a few skateparks where cops tried to give me a ticket before. My friends and I went out to Chino, and this cop walks in and he’s waving his finger at some thirteen year old and writing him a ticket for not having elbow pads on. The kid’s even got a helmet on, and I’m thinking, “What a retard.” Then he comes up to us and says, “You guys come here.” I’m thinking this pile of shit is not going to give us a ticket, and sure enough he kind of snickered and said, “What do you do?” I tell him, “Actually, you know, sir, I’m a police officer and I work at this city over here.” He says, “Oh?” and then realizes how stupid he looked. Like, here’s a cop, and then another cop sees how he’s wasting his time on this stupidity, and I remember telling him that where I work at we’re pretty happy to see kids skate ’cause it’s something constructive. “I can’t believe you’re writing tickets for this stuff.” He looked at me like I was a jerk. At least he didn’t write us a ticket, but what a knucklehead.

Do you catch any heat or compliments from other skaters because of your job?

Yeah, you know, it’s funny, especially at first when I got on the job. I had a few people that I was friends with that kind of turned their nose to me almost, like stopped calling or hanging out because I’m a cop, and it was like, that’s beyond my control. What am I going to do? It’s not like I’m gonna sit there and be like, “Oh hey, you’re drinking a beer in your car, man. That’s against the law.” Whatever, I’m me, just don’t kill or rob anyone in front of me, that’s all I ask. But other than that, I haven’t changed. I skateboard and have a good time on my days off.

Has anyone been stoked on it?

There are some people that at least acknowledge it. I think that most of the people I skate with now are older and most of them have their own careers. Some are teachers. Some work in the movie industry doing lighting. With my job, I’m not rich, but I make decent money-I can help my mom out with money. I can take care of mysorneys, man, they’re a joke. They don’t care anything about the whole tail end of it. Like, “Maybe we should pursue this case and not plea out for this deal. We should get him whatever he’s willing to take, so let’s go ahead and give him five years even though he deserves twenty and we can pat ourselves on the back because we got a conviction and it makes me look better in my career. I can climb the rope and advance to a higher level of attorney and as an officer.” At least I feel I have an obligation to present a solid arrest and to try the best I can, and if I’m going to arrest somebody, it’s going to be for something good.

All skaters at one point or another experience some kind of hassle from The Man from time to time. How does it feel to be on the other side of the badge?

It’s funny when I work, especially where I work, when I see the few kids skating-I’m stoked to see them skate. So there’s been a couple of times where I’ve been like, “Come on over here real quick,” and they think I’m gonna bust them or something, but I’m like, “What are you doing, dude? Set up that trash can and backside 180 it.” Then they freak out-I grab the board and mess around and talk with some kids. A lot of times we don’t have time to do that, but I just can’t picture giving a kid a ticket for skating where I work. As lame as it sounds, even a kid Rollerblading I can’t imagine. I’m so used to seeing kids that are involved in drugs, straight up twelve-year-old kids who carry guns and have tattoos on their faces that are gangsters-assholes. The way they view society is they wake up in the morning, they eat their cereal, and then all they think about is what car they’re going to steal or how they’re going to rob somebody or shoot someone. And so here you have a group of kids and they’re waking up and their thinking about if they’re going to hit the twelve-stair rails today or not. I’m thinking that’s so constructive, how can you knock that? But I’ve been to a few skateparks where cops tried to give me a ticket before. My friends and I went out to Chino, and this cop walks in and he’s waving his finger at some thirteen year old and writing him a ticket for not having elbow pads on. The kid’s even got a helmet on, and I’m thinking, “What a retard.” Then he comes up to us and says, “You guys come here.” I’m thinking this pile of shit is not going to give us a ticket, and sure enough he kind of snickered and said, “What do you do?” I tell him, “Actually, you know, sir, I’m a police officer and I work at this city over here.” He says, “Oh?” and then realizes how stupid he looked. Like, here’s a cop, and then another cop sees how he’s wasting his time on this stupidity, and I remember telling him that where I work at we’re pretty happy to see kids skate ’cause it’s something constructive. “I can’t believe you’re writing tickets for this stuff.” He looked at me like I was a jerk. At least he didn’t write us a ticket, but what a knucklehead.

Do you catch any heat or compliments from other skaters because of your job?

Yeah, you know, it’s funny, especially at first when I got on the job. I had a few people that I was friends with that kind of turned their nose to me almost, like stopped calling or hanging out because I’m a cop, and it was like, that’s beyond my control. What am I going to do? It’s not like I’m gonna sit there and be like, “Oh hey, you’re drinking a beer in your car, man. That’s against the law.” Whatever, I’m me, just don’t kill or rob anyone in front of me, that’s all I ask. But other than that, I haven’t changed. I skateboard and have a good time on my days off.

Has anyone been stoked on it?

There are some people that at least acknowledge it. I think that most of the people I skate with now are older and most of them have their own careers. Some are teachers. Some work in the movie industry doing lighting. With my job, I’m not rich, but I make decent money-I can help my mom out with money. I can take care of myself and save cash and hopefully someday buy a house just like anyone else. I’m working out there and helping people, so if somebody were to say, “That’s retarded,” I don’t even react to that. I’ve heard people say stupid stuff before-I just don’t say anything. What am I gonna do, say, “No, my job is cool, man, you don’t understand.” Whatever, donkey.

If you had to choose between the two, which one would you choose?

That’s a tough one. I mean, it’s kinda like if you have to choose between food and water, which one would you choose? It’s tough. Police work in some ways, believe it or not-skaters might not think so-can be very creative. It’s one of those things you could never master. No cop could ever say, “I’m the best cop” or “I’ve learned everything there is to know about police work.” I think that’s the biggest appeal to me, same as skateboarding. There are so many tricks that I know that I’ll never come close to doing. I watch some of my favorite skaters and marvel, “F-k, I want to try that!” I know I’ll never make it, so I can’t picture quitting either.

Which do you find more satisfying and why?

I think they both have different levels of satisfaction for different reasons. I think police work is mentally challenging. It’s one of those things that once I get into it I’m fully focused and I think of different ideas. Every day is like an adventure, it’s like exploring, and with that comes stress-a tremendous stress. Not only for your own life, but also to make sure that your work is accurate and thorough, ’cause if you don’t, not only are you gonna get in trouble, but somebody’s life could start turning in a different direction that it shouldn’t. Versus skating-it has its rewards, no other way to put it. It’s just good times. It’s super fun from my perspective after being stressed out at work. It’s the best relief and there’s a lot of friends that I have through skateboarding. There’s a definite sense of bonding with other friends who skate. I can’t imagine anything negative about skating other than no one wants to eat shit.

myself and save cash and hopefully someday buy a house just like anyone else. I’m working out there and helping people, so if somebody were to say, “That’s retarded,” I don’t even react to that. I’ve heard people say stupid stuff before-I just don’t say anything. What am I gonna do, say, “No, my job is cool, man, you don’t understand.” Whatever, donkey.

If you had to choose between the two, which one would you choose?

That’s a tough one. I mean, it’s kinda like if you have to choose between food and water, which one would you choose? It’s tough. Police work in some ways, believe it or not-skaters might not think so-can be very creative. It’s one of those things you could never master. No cop could ever say, “I’m the best cop” or “I’ve learned everything there is to know about police work.” I think that’s the biggest appeal to me, same as skateboarding. There are so many tricks that I know that I’ll never come close to doing. I watch some of my favorite skaters and marvel, “F-k, I want to try that!” I know I’ll never make it, so I can’t picture quitting either.

Which do you find more satisfying and why?

I think they both have different levels of satisfaction for different reasons. I think police work is mentally challenging. It’s one of those things that once I get into it I’m fully focused and I think of different ideas. Every day is like an adventure, it’s like exploring, and with that comes stress-a tremendous stress. Not only for your own life, but also to make sure that your work is accurate and thorough, ’cause if you don’t, not only are you gonna get in trouble, but somebody’s life could start turning in a different direction that it shouldn’t. Versus skating-it has its rewards, no other way to put it. It’s just good times. It’s super fun from my perspective after being stressed out at work. It’s the best relief and there’s a lot of friends that I have through skkateboarding. There’s a definite sense of bonding with other friends who skate. I can’t imagine anything negative about skating other than no one wants to eat shit.