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article image'Skateboard Cop' turns heads, bridges gap between communty, cops

By Greta McClain     Aug 29, 2014 in World
Green Bay - A Green Bay police officer is turning heads and gaining stares as he patrols neighborhoods in a rather unique manner, riding a skateboard equiped with emergency lights.
Officer Joel Zwicky, 40, served as the front man for the rock band Boom Candle, and had a brief career as a photographer before becoming a police officer with the Green Bay Police Department.
The 10-year police veteran has been a fan of surfing for much of his life, and took up skateboarding three years ago. Wanting to reach out to his community in different ways, Zwicky approached his superiors about using a skateboard during his patrol duties. The idea never gained traction until Green Bay Police Chief Thomas Molitor announced a new initiative geared towards finding unique and different ways to engage the community. Zwicky jumped on the opportunity and brought his idea to Molitor. He told ABC News:
“And I said, ‘You know chief, I had this crazy idea in the back of my head what would you do if I brought my board to work and started skating it?’ And he said, ‘Can’t hurt. Just don’t get hurt please,’ he goes. So that’s kind of how it started.”
After being given the green light to use his skateboard on patrol, Zwicky began his eye catching patrols in March of this year. He equipped his skateboard with $400 worth of LED flashing red and blue lights, and has even been known to make up his own siren sounds when needed.
Green Bay police officer Joel Zwicky shows off the emergency lights on his skateboard
Green Bay police officer Joel Zwicky shows off the emergency lights on his skateboard
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Part of Zwicky's goal is to break down barriers between law enforcement and various segments of the community. Many communities, Green Bay included, have cumbersome restrictions on where skateboards can be ridden, and there has often times been animosity between law enforcement and the skating community. He wanted to change the perception of skaters and bridge the gap between the community and police. He told Police One:
“I think I’m the only one in the world who actually patrols with a skateboard. wanted to break that down and show people that skateboarders aren’t just punk kids causing trouble, they are all kinds of people in the community, and they’re even your police force.”
Zwicky also wants to make police officers seem more human, easy to talk to and less like "storm troopers," saying:
“Being in the squad car all day, it’s kind of like a barrier to the public and it can be intimidating to come up and talk to us … but when I go skating past them, even if it’s, ‘What the heck is that?’ or ‘What are you doing?’ ... then all of a sudden we’re both smiling and we can talk and they can tell me their concerns.”
Green Bay police officer Joel Zwicky interacts with kids at a local skateboard park.
Green Bay police officer Joel Zwicky interacts with kids at a local skateboard park.
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Now affectionately known by many in the community as "Skateboard Cop," Zwicky has found that his unique approach to patrol is indeed making it easier for the public to approach him. While on a recent traffic stop, he noticed two youngsters peering into the back seat of his patrol car, admiring his skateboard. They ended up trying on his helmet and asking him various questions. He has even received tips on crimes via his Facebook page. He told the Green Bay Press Gazette:
"Apparently they didn't feel comfortable calling the police and they felt comfortable doing that."
The skateboard also gives Zwicky the ability to patrol areas not accessible by patrol car, providing him an opportunity to not only engage more members of the community, but to spot crimes being committed in areas not visible from the street.
When describing himself, Zwicky sums up his role as "Skateboard Cop" best on his website, appropriately named Skateboard Cop, saying:
"I probably don’t sound like a “typical cop”. The point is, “Cops” are not a Thing. They are just a group of individuals performing a service, just like “skaters” are not all the same. I love skating, and I dislike those that would harm and prey upon others. So now.. I'm a skateboard cop."
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