Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 42 - Chris Lawrence - LIFE OF SERVICE - Part 1 of 3

Well, with our department, if you want to stay on patrol your entire life you can. It's just we've got a lot of officers who are in their 50s and they're happy. They like patrol.
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 42 - Chris Lawrence - LIFE OF SERVICE - Part 1 of 3

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“Well, with our department, if you want to stay on patrol your entire life you can. It's just we've got a lot of officers who are in their 50s and they're happy. They like patrol. Doing the police thing, it's a young man's game, no doubt about it because of the way things go, the way things evolved. But I remember there was a shirt or a quote, “Beware of the old man in a young man's game because if he's made it that long, he knows the way.” And I've seen these more seasoned officers at something that I would often end up having to use force go hands on, they're able to like Jedi mind trick these people into put these cuffs on.” This episode of the Smart Athlete Podcast is brought to you by Solpri, Skincare for Athletes. Whether you're in the gym, on the mats, on the road or in the pool, we protect your skin so you're more comfortable in your own body. To learn more, go to JESSE: Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I'm your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today is a Marine Corps veteran. He is also currently an officer with the Chula Vista Police Department where he, I believe, currently serves on patrol as well as a drone pilot. I got in touch with him because I've kind of had, I'll say a relationship with Chula Vista PD because they do a race called Baker to Vegas, which is an all law enforcement ultra-distance relay race, which Chris competes in. He's also a father, which is important. I'm sure we'll get to talk about that as well as I mentioned before. Welcome to the show, Chris Lawrence. CHRIS: Thank you. JESSE: I always wonder, like I said before we got going, I like to give people their due diligence. You put in the time with the Marine Corps, you put in your time as a police officer, you put in time running. So, I always like want to make sure you get all that. But I also think about, it's not a very useful thing for somebody to like, read off all the things that you do. So, I'm always like, how does that feel to be sitting there as I'm jabbering on about all these different things? CHRIS: I don't like thinking about all the stuff that I do and have done because I try not to get a big head with all this extra stuff. JESSE: Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, that's good. So, I mean, so as I told you before, we got going again, just like I'm kind of coming in a little cold because I don't have a police background. I don't have any family in law enforcement. I have friends in the military or have you know retired from the military, so I'm only tangentially informed. So, Greg mentioned to you, is like is Greg, your boss? How is Greg related to you in the department? CHRIS: Well, Greg, he used to be a, he got promoted recently. Before he was just a senior officer, kind of a little bit of a mentor, and he's got a fantastic legal background, so a great resource for us on patrol. And he got promoted. So, now he's got stripes, not really a boss. But now his seniority is recognized more or less. He's one of the resources that he's now in our chain of command. Doesn't exactly tell me what to do but he gives very strong suggestions if that makes sense. JESSE: It makes some sense. I'm sure it makes more sense as you're there working. Because it's not-- The chain of command is not quite as tightly structured as the military, correct? CHRIS: No, it's so different. JESSE: Yeah. Yeah. So, you sent me the other interview you’ve done, and Greg mentioned you've done other media. But in the interview you sent me. You mentioned that when you were a kid, you always wanted to pretend play as a soldier or as a police officer. So, it seems like you've kind of fulfilled those ideas or maybe dreams as you’re a kid.I was wondering, do you have family that are officers or like, does that come from somewhere? CHRIS: I am-- I love my family, right? I'm a second-generation American. My family, nobody in my family is in law enforcement. They're kind of people that the law is enforced on sometimes. And that's how my relationship with law enforcement kind of began because they would often be police officers over my family's house, and they were always very respectful and courteous. Even when things were going bad they showed respect. And when I was a kid, I grew up in a not too great neighborhood in Milwaukee. And we used to have cops rolling around on bikes, and they would pass out the baseball cards and bubblegum and it was good. I could appreciate what they were doing. JESSE: It just seems like kids are, I’ll say impressionable, and I don't mean that in a bad way. But just some kids say, they dream of being an artist or being a teacher, sometimes they're inspired by their parents or they see something on TV. So, when you mentioned that, in the other interview, I was just thinking about-- I feel like it has to come from somewhere. There has to be some kind of spark where it's like that's something that inspires you or that you admire. CHRIS: Yeah. So, I'm not trying to dive too deep into my background, but I grew up in foster care and one of my foster dads was in the military and ?? 06:03> structure and that led me into the military. And ?? 06:08> September 11th, and all that stuff happened when I was in school. The law enforcement thing, it was when-- So, when I was injured, I got injured in the war. JESSE: Well, we'll get into that here later, CHRIS: Just trying to bring it all together. And afterwards, when I served in the Marine Corps, there was a level of satisfaction that I have from what I did, and having a direct impact on things that happen. And considering the military to the law enforcement side structures and things are very similar. The mission, in some ways, is very similar. And I was like, I love the Marine Corps. I love what I did. What's the next best thing? I bounced around for a few years trying to find that. I was like, you know, I think police officers have the ability to kind of shape and guide people in their worst hour and I would like to do that. And at the same time, when I got interested, like seriously law enforcement, it was also during the summer of Ferguson and all that stuff going on. And I was like from my experiences, and from how I grew up, I would like to bring those to the law enforcement field to try and bring a different side of what people perceive and what their ideas of law enforcement are. JESSE: See, I got listening to you, I had a thought and I lost it. Oh. So, you had this-- I mean, you had this gap, basically, where you're in the military, you were I assume, medically or honorably discharged. And then, I think in the interview you mentioned about a decade between discharge to kind of figuring out, do you want to get back into a uniform and be a police officer. So, I was wondering, was this a lost decade, like what were you doing in that time? CHRIS: Well, so I got medically retired from the Marine Corps in 2010. And right before the retirement I actually had an option at the time to stay in. If you were injured in combat, they gave you the opportunity to stay in and go your full 20. And I thought about it. I was like if I stayed in, I would never be able to do what I did before. They ?? 08:32> allow me to deploy. And there was a-- one of my mentors when I got injured, a great Vietnam veteran, Jack Lyons, who's very heavy in the veteran community here in San Diego. He was one of the founders of Veterans Village of San Diego, VVSD and he-- There was an opening there and it was helping to guide combat-injured veterans and veterans with invisible wounds, post-traumatic stress, combat stress and it was similar to kind of what I was doing before I got out in the Marine Corps. And I was like, I'll give it a shot. If I get on I get on. And that's kind of I'll take that as an indicator to move on to other things and I did. So, I got on, I worked with Veterans Village of San Diego for two years, worked in a non-profit setting, helping homeless veterans, their families, veterans with combat issues, dealing with the invisible wounds a lot. And then funding got cut, the whole recession hit hard and funding got cut. They offered me a position to stay in the organization, but again, I looked at the writing on the wall, maybe this is an indication to move on to something else. Because it was still very much at a desk, still very much four walls and spending five years in Marine Corps and ?? 09:47> I did, I don't like that too much. So, I got out, stuck with that and went back to school. I kind of wanted to go the psychology route and then I realized I don't have the patience to deal with people’s problems. You talk with somebody for years and they finally have an epiphany, maybe. And 90% of the time they don't and you're just spinning your wheels going crazy yourself. So, did that, school, worked for a Medical Equipment Repair Company. I more or less just found more things that I was good at, but I didn't want to do. And I considered law enforcement or fire, like those were very good follow ons after the Marine Corps, but I was-- my injuries were so severe ?? 10:41> like I didn't think I would be physically able to. So, I started-- when I was working in those office settings and all that, I got kind of fat and sloppy I couldn't stand it. So, I started boxing and I got involved with another organization, Challenged Athletes Foundation, Operation Rebound and started boxing, I started training. I started training with these professional athletes and semi-pro athletes. And they were like, “Hey, man, you’re pretty good. You can do it.” I'm standing toe to toe with these pro muay Thai and whatnot. I got a few lumps, bumps and bruises. And it gave me an inspiration to try amateur boxing. I did a couple of amateur boxing matches. And I was like, if I could do this, there's no reason why I can't go law enforcement. And that's how it started. JESSE: Yeah, like as you're talking, you actually even said this too, so I was like there it is. It's just you don't-- With how you talk about the time you served in the military, and then kind of deciding okay, no, I don't want to stay in. It's just like you don't strike me as somebody who's going to be satisfied as being a desk jockey anywhere. So, it comes back-- to me, it seems like it comes back too to like that inspiration. Correct me if I'm wrong, but just like talking about seeing the police officers when you were a kid up close and personal, not somebody sending you a letter, but somebody interacting with you face to face. And it seems like, that seems like it’s like a driving force or something that I'll say you enjoy. It’s deeper than that, it seems like to me, that like you have that personal impact on somebody not just shuffling papers around, which is still important, but like it doesn't seem like it would satisfy you. I guess that's my impression I get. CHRIS: Yeah, yeah. I mean, no matter what, eventually when you work up the race, you're gonna end up sitting behind a desk eventually. I just hope I anchor to it. JESSE: Right. So, ?? 12:52> get out. Maybe you get to the point you're sitting behind a desk but you still get to get out and like shake hands, see people every once in a while, and then they'll say, “All right. Chris, come back to the office ?? 13:07> see you for a while.” CHRIS: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that's, I'm sure that's on the horizon. Even the police department, it's on the horizon. There's no way around it. JESSE: Yeah. Well, I mean, so this is something I don't know. I mean, I know I speak to a lot of athletes. So, I'm very familiar with kind of the taper off in terms of absolute peak performance for pro athletes, where it's like, you can only get so old before you start getting slower and there's nothing you can do about it. So, I met-- Is there some kind of similar curve with officers out on patrol where it's like you don't want like, 85 year old Frank, who can't lift a five pound dumbbell out on patrol with you. So, is there-- do you see kind of that kind of curve where it's like, there's a point where it's like, we got to bring you back and put you behind a desk? CHRIS: Well, with our department, if you want to stay on patrol your entire life you can. It's just we've got a lot of officers who are in their 50s and they're happy. They like patrol. Doing the police thing, it's a young man's game, no doubt about it because of the way things go, the way things evolved. But I remember there was a shirt or a quote, “Beware of the old man in a young man's game because if he's made it that long, he knows the way.” And I've seen these more seasoned officers at something that I would often end up having to use force go hands on, they're able to like Jedi mind trick these people into put these cuffs on, get in the back of my car, they have these skills. So, there's a physical aspect to the job that you can't deny, but it's a lot more of a mental and communication. So, if people are able to talk well, to interact, to connect with people, like being a police officer, it's not about forcing people, wrestling people. It's often about communicating with people, being ?? 15:16>, being able to talk, being able to see their point of view and get them to see your point of view. And a good day is a day when I can just talk people into putting on their handcuffs. I don't have to actually physically force anybody to do anything. That's a great day. And those seasoned experienced officers, they’ve mastered that 10 years ago. They're masters of the game, essentially. Then they had enough scuffles and fights and run-ins to know this guy is gonna do something. Let me stand back and prepare for it. I know how to do this before. They can read people like they’re reading the newspaper, they know what's going to happen next. They can see these things. While you know me, I've only been on for three years, I'm still learning. I've learned a few things when people don't do things. I'm like, “Ah, this is gonna go wrong soon.” But I'm still like, let's see if it goes wrong. I can handle it, you know? I'm not gonna stay arrogant, but I kind of still enjoy the fun. But the experienced officers, it's still, they're still good. I mean, I haven't seen any 80 year old officers, but I know there's some out there, just not in our department. JESSE: Well, it seems like and this is-- it’s the only way I can aim like relate to the situation. So, I don't mean this in a demeaning way, but like, so I used to fit shoes with people. So, this is a very small scope of human psychology is people's problems with their feet. And after a time, you start to see the same patterns or it's like, all right, somebody walks in. You can see their laces are like tied so tight, they're right close together the whole way down. You’re like, shoes way too big, they've got a tiny foot, like you already know what the problem is, before they even say anything. And you know what the objections are going to be. It's just like, and then in your case, like I said, that's a very small slice, you've got a much broader swath of human interaction, human psychology to deal with. But it seems like those older guys that have that experience have to be like, all right, I've been through this a half dozen times. I know this scenario, I know this type of person, like I know yeah, they're in a bad situation, but I know their motivation is actually this. So, if I could just talk to them about it we'll be on the same page. CHRIS: Yeah, yeah. That's really it. They're almost mentalists in a way. They've been doing it so long, they could see the little cues, they could tell the way they're holding their hands, their inflection; they can read these things and kind of guide them to where they want to go without them knowing it. I'm still trying to learn that, I've been reading plenty of books but I'm still a little headstrong. I don't think I could pick up on all the cues yet. But I need to. JESSE: Well, even if say those guys got together and they wrote a manual, reading the manual, knowing the manual front to back, back to front is totally different from like, being able to execute the manual. CHRIS: Yeah. They're probably able to write the manual. I mean-- JESSE: ?? 18:29> I'm saying. Like if they gave you a manual, and you studied it, and knew it, not all of it, maybe it would like speed up your progress. But it's not gonna make you a master overnight, even if you know all the knowledge, you know. CHRIS: Exactly. JESSE: But that makes me, this is one of the things I wanted to ask you is that again, because I come from basically no background, I just don't have a lot of experience. We get all these kind of portrayals, media portrayals I mean, like both News and like pop TV shows of military and police. And my suspicion is that it's not even half the story of like, the real-life in either position, and you've been in both. So, I'm kind of wondering if you can tell me about, are there any, like tropes or like misconceptions you see over and over and over, that you're just like, that's just not-- that's not how things work or like that's not true at all, or like things that continually pop up like that, that we might think are true as laypeople, but you know is not the case? CHRIS: Well, talking from the military side of things, the military is pretty united. There's a pretty standard way of doing things. The way they portray it in media, it's kind of accurate, okay. ?? 20:01> because it's such a large organization, the United States military, what is it like 3 million troops? There is just so many different facets in there that even these ridiculous things probably are happening somewhere or probably could happen. So, I can't really say that they've got it wrong. Law enforcement a similar thing, similar point there is around I believe 800,000 law enforcement professionals in the country. And we put that in perspective, that is a quarter of 1% of the population or maybe about half of 1%. So, with that, there's a couple thousands departments, and each department has their own way of doing things. So, it's a possibility that some of that ridiculous stuff is happening in those other departments. I know I see things on the news and I see things on TV and I see reports, I'm like I can't believe that that happened there because that's how it is there. In my department, I can say we've got a very forward-looking command staff, they're kind of-- Again, they're reading the movements of the country and the county before it happens, and they're aligning our department to accommodate them. So, our training and things are kind of keeping us in line with things before they happen. So, we are able to better handle a lot of things that to us, we look at “Oh, my God, I can't believe this person shot 60 rounds in the shootout going down the street by an elementary school.” Because we would never do that, because our training says that just doesn't make good sense. In another department, if that's the way they're trained, the way they do things, I can't talk against it because the departments have their own policies for what they're dealing with. And honestly, the way the media has done things, they often look at the mistakes of one officer out of that 800,000 and use that one mistake to paint all 800,000 as that one screwed up officer. And it's a little frustrating but again, we tend to stand together when there's something bad that happens to us. And then at the same time, not every officer speaks out when an officer does something bad, but then again, we know that it's hard to rush to judgment. Like okay, there's something else going on here that we don't know. So, there's that. I’m kind of rambling on, I think I lost the-- JESSE: No, no. You're right. Yeah, it's just like, the roundabout thing I'm trying to get to what you kind of did is that it seems like depending on where you are because I have people I know, friends that are very like pro-military, pro-police, and then other people that are very anti. And I sit in the middle and just kind of watched the chaos because it's a realization that like, no matter what organization it is; police, Catholic priests, school teachers, you're gonna have a certain amount of people that this is very black and white, but you're gonna have good people and you're gonna have bad people. Again, it's black and white because this is another thing where like, say you have somebody you deem as like a bad officer or an officer that makes a bad choice and then gets demonized in the media. Does that make that person entirely bad? I certainly don't think so. Did they make a bad decision? Probably. But sometimes there's also extenuating circumstances that like the media doesn't report. So, it's like we get-- that's kind of what I want to get at. It’s like, sometimes we get these snippets and tidbits where it's like it's easier-- I think it's easier basically to sell the news when you say, here's this villain cop who is supposed to be whatever, instead of being like Chris went on patrol today and de-escalated the situation and brought somebody in without injury harmed anybody and everything's cool. Like, that's not a story. CHRIS: Exactly. It's not sensational. Nobody wants to know when we do our jobs right. On average, I have 10 calls for service or 10 incidents a day and let's say each incident has one or two people, that's 36 interactions I have with people a day. Now, if every officer across the country has half that much, that's like 8 million people these officers are interacting with. Now, if one time out of those 8 million interactions with people and officer does something foolish that day, it gets all the attention, not counting the 7,999,999 times that officers did something right. But I understand and we need to be held accountable for our actions, there needs to be a higher standard of training. And there are things that I can say I'm actually appreciative that the country has been pushing for. But at the same time, we're tending to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Now, there has been the question of police legitimacy. People are saying we don't need police. I’m like, “Well, yeah, that's-- let's see how that plays out.” There's issues, but it's, again, it's the media. It's more sensational to say that this one officer, who nobody knows anything about their backstory, they don't talk about how this officer may be a white officer but has a black wife and grew up in an inner-city community, volunteers at his local boys and girls club was responded to this call after possibly reviving a baby or possibly pulling out a gun at a robbery and then pulls up to a call where somebody has a gun and this person points the gun at him. Turns out it's a toy gun the officer shoots and kills this kid, the kid happens to be black. And now the media just says, black officer shoots black kid with a toy gun, or white officer shoots black kid with a toy gun, and that's all they cover. You know? There's more to the story. Not saying that those things shouldn't be criticized but we tend to again, throw the baby out with the bathwater or just go on witch-hunts and break out the pitchforks and torches. But that's a really difficult time for law enforcement. We had a big conversation yesterday in training about how there are so many changes on the horizon, and it's becoming so difficult to recruit officers. And we're not getting less calls for service, we are-- The burden-- The reason why I think people hate law enforcement so much is we are the social barrier. We are-- People think that thin blue line is to protect us, it's really the thin lines to protect society from ?? 26:58> and chaos. And the more we choose to encourage chaos by making less repercussions, less consequences for doing things that thin blue line gets stretched and there's only a matter of time before the chaos is overflowing. I don’t want to go on a tangent and tirade regarding policies on the horizon. But we're dealing, police officers again are societal barrier, we are the field psychologist, field therapists. We are the first medics, we are the first responders. We arrived before fire does dealing with critical incidents. I've had to hold people's heads back together before the firefighters got there because something crazy was going on. But then we are the villains in the way the media portrays us because this person who has this crazy mental health issue that the family hasn’t been unable to deal with and chose not to deal with has been living on the streets for years. And society says that he does not need to be institutionalized because it's okay for him to sleep on the street, eat sticks and not bathe for months. Then he somehow gets a hold of a gun or a knife and rushes at us and then he gets hurt. And it's our fault ?? 28:23> versus all the other things that failed to get him to us. JESSE: And you're right. It makes me think about, like you said, I mean, you're the field psychologists and that's-- it seems like anytime you've got a job where you're dealing with people, it's almost first a job of psychology and then whatever your job title is because you are dealing with people. It's an interaction. It's a social thing. And there's a lot of components here to try to break apart the motivations of people, the motivations of the media. And I can go back to you, there's so many rabbit holes to go down, which I like to do, but if the media can be ?? 29:18> thing to sell papers or sell airspace, whatever it is, the attention is what they need to garner so they can sell ad space. But then also, along with that, that media narrative shaping culture, and our perception of culture, and I kind of think about sometimes as an adult, I don't mean this demeaning to adults. But I think sometimes we forget that we were children and some of those tendencies we had as children, we haven't necessarily gotten rid of just because we've gotten older. And that's all of us, not there are some people out there assuming you, for sure are more responsible than others. But I think there are also things that we haven't had to deal with or come up where it's like this pattern of behavior or whatever, where it's never been changed for whatever reason. We haven't had to, we haven't wanted to. It's benefited us to some points. And in that case, I think about like, there's a statistic and I don't even think it's that accurate but it's often quoted that sociopaths make good CEOs because they don't care about people. They're just about the bottom line. Well, that's a very obvious negative characteristic that benefits that individual. That's an extreme example, but on a microcosm it, say just bullies people that are mean. In the right environment, they get to be in charge, that benefits them, but it doesn't actually benefit society as a whole. So, it's like there's so many little of both as culture individuals, how we view culture and then how you guys as police officers play a role into that, that it's like, how do you even begin to untangle it all, and try to figure out the human element instead of making that black and white judgment where like, all police officers are bad or all police officers are good. It's like, we're all people and there's shades of grey and we have to devote mental energy to things to sift through all the madness. CHRIS: Yeah. Yeah, the reality is, is good people do-- can do bad things and can make bad decisions, bad people can do good things and make good decisions. And it's, I can't-- because when I'm out and I have to arrest somebody who did something terrible, they may have been a fantastic Sunday school teacher and may love their kids and take care of everybody all the time. But they did this one thing and that's gonna be what they get judged upon. Go to Part 2 Go to Part 3

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