Author Topic: How to Talk to Authorities  (Read 7087 times)

Offline Eli Kurtz

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How to Talk to Authorities
« on: September 17, 2008, 11:26:56 PM »
How to Deal with the Powers That Be

In this series of articles, I’m going to do a couple of things.  First, I’m going to centralize some advice that I’ve seen floating around the boards for a way to talk to authorities when you’re approached during training.  Second, I’m going to lay out some groundwork for a presentation about parkour that might be useful for someone interested in setting up a parkour group at a college campus, or when talking to the owner of a building for the purposes of using his or her facility.

As a disclaimer beforehand, I’d like to make it clear that I have no experience dealing with police officers or any other authority figure when it comes to parkour and freerunning.  The information I’m presenting is really more of a synthesis of articles I’ve read here on APK’s main page gathered together from a handful of posts here on the forums, and found from research about parkour on the internet.  I don’t consider this to be an original work, though there are definitely some of my own thoughts herein.  Instead, I look at it more as a way to centralize a few of the resources I’ve found, so there won’t be a need for someone to create a new thread every week to ask questions about dealing with authorities.  Without further ado, here we go!

Contents
1. Dealing with Police Officers
2. Making a Parkour Presentation
3. The History of Parkour
4. Useful Resources
« Last Edit: September 20, 2008, 12:42:14 AM by Eli Kurtz »

Offline Eli Kurtz

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Re: How to Talk to Authorities
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2008, 12:37:30 AM »
=============
Part I: The Police
=============

First thing’s first: let’s talk about how to handle police officers.  Admittedly, for someone that doesn’t know anything about parkour, it can be easy to confuse what we do with reckless activity from “those punk kids.”  Our movements are essential to cultivating the philosophy of parkour in ourselves, but some people just don’t know that there’s something more going on than a bunch of guys and girls running, jumping, and climbing.  That being said, it’s the experience of most people here on the boards that police officers (and civilians, too) often react either neutrally or even positively when we take the time to explain what parkour is.

One method for dealing with authorities is to use common sense and work on the raw basics whenever someone in authority is in the area.  This means no jumps from anything higher than you are tall, no flips or serious tricks, and probably no wall runs either.  Instead, if a police officer sees you working on something as basic as rolling, running, or minor vaults, then chances are he or she won’t even approach you, and you’ll be free to continue with regular training once the officer has left.  To some, this may seem like trying to hide what we do or get away with something we wouldn’t otherwise, but as Laurie “lauriejennifer” Jennifer here on the boards said, conditioning and stretching can make what we do seem much more respectable to the eyes of a stranger, whereas drilling technique is more likely to make police think we’re “some dumb kid jumping off stuff and recklessly damaging property and endangering him/herself.”

As I mentioned earlier, though, a lot of authority figures react positively to us when we explain what parkour is, so why not let them confront us?  Well, there are actually more options than a) avoiding the police, and b) waiting for them to approach us.  One of these options is actually to approach them.  Regardless of whether you wait for police to approach you or take the initiative yourself, here are some guidelines from Jordan “Sirlig” Nelson here on the boards that I think captures perfectly what needs to take place:

Quote from: Jordan "Sirlig" Nelson
To deal with it:
1) RESPECT! First and foremost.  Do NOT treat it like a confrontation, even if the cop IS being confrontational.  Be a diffuser, not a bomb.
2) Make sure you're not doing anything illegal to begin with (i.e. trespassing).  Public areas have plenty of training opportunities without the need for breaking the law by trespassing.
3) Politely greet and address the police officer (and don't call them cops to their face    Here is fine, but officer is better).
4) Try to explain that you are merely training the art of parkour, trying to move through obstacles efficiently and build up your body.
5) If they seem interested, explain some more info.
6) Don't mention roofs, and don't be on roofs.
7) If the cop's not interested or is confrontational do NOT attempt to argue.  Merely say "okay" and walk away.  I guarantee you can find some other spot.

If you follow these guidelines, usually they don't mind at all!  And if you frequent training spots often, they often get to know you.  In the downtown area of Oklahoma City for example, there's an area called "Bricktown" that has millions of good training spots.  The police officers there were suspicious of us for a while (a couple of weeks) but after several weeks of training courteously, leaving when asked, etc. they got to know us and now greet us as friends!!!

Another thing that I think is really important when talking to the police is that you make absolutely clear that when parkour is practiced correctly (which it should be by everyone on these forums :)) it's no more dangerous and involves no more injury than any sport or recreational activity.  One of our main goals is to improve ourselves and do things we couldn't do once upon a time.  However, we're not interested in hurting ourselves beyond the point of repair, and we're not going to try anything that we don't know we're capable of.

Adrian from MiamiPK wrote in an article about dealing with security that we should "take the opportunity to explain what parkour is and what we’re training for. Recognize the opportunity to spread awareness and educate the public about the discipline. The battle to gain respect for what we do and to be seen as ambassadors, doesn’t need the setback of insubordination. You may have that one chance to expose them to the sport, so make the best impression possible."  So what are some things you can say to an officer that are quick, to-the-point and still informative about parkour?  An excellent start can be found here, and it would be easy to condense that into a few quick sentences off of the top of my head.  If I were to have a conversation with a police officer about parkour, I would probably handle it like this:

Cop: What are you doing, jumping all over things?
Me: I'm practicing to do parkour, sir/ma'am.  Have you heard of it?
Cop: No (let's face it, he probably hasn't. :P)
Me: It's the art of moving through an environment, overcoming obstacles for the purposes of escaping or reaching in an emergency situation.  I don't know when I might need it, but I want to be ready when I do.
Cop: I think that's dangerous/illegal.
Me: I actually like to think of it as a way to get back in touch with myself.  When I was a kid I used to climb trees and play on playground equipment, like most kids I know, but now that I'm older it seems like people have forgotten how to play.  I don't want to forget how to play, plus it's good for my health.
Cop: What if you hurt yourself (which probably means something like "You're being irresponsible and you're going to break a bone.")
Me:  Actually, I take my safety really seriously while I'm training.  I know some of this stuff can be dangerous, but I focus a lot on condition, and only trying something new when I'm pretty sure I can handle it.  Would you like to see some of the stuff I do in preparation?

Obviously, this is a pretty ideal conversation, where the officer is pretty willing to listen to you.  For the most part, I think it's an example of different phrases you can throw out that a)won't bore the officer with a lot of lofty philosophy or time-consuming explanations, and b) still explain pretty well some of the prevailing ideas about what parkour is.  If a police officer isn't as obliging as this, then it's best just to be polite and do whatever the officer says.  As Sirlig says above "be a diffuser, not a bomb."  You're not going to get to a place where police will be okay with you training if you're belligerent or you refuse to listen to the officer.  Also, if the officer tells you to leave, maybe you should consider putting together a presentation for the local police department, in an attempt to give a more in-depth account of parkour, and help the police understand that what we're doing is a really good thing.

In terms of dealing with owners of property, whatever they say is law.  If they tell you to leave, then that's that.  You might be able to set up a meeting with them in the future as well, but it's best to treat them with the same politeness and compliance that you would an officer.  Also, parks are public spaces, so if you train in a park, you're less likely to deal with angry property owners that are probably concerned about liability and legal issues while you're using their space.

Summary:
1. Most importantly, before you even start training you should at least be able to talk about what parkour or freerunning is.  The day you go out to attempt your first vault you should be able to explain parkour or freerunning in a few short sentences in "friendly language" that won't leave people confused.  If the only person you can explain parkour or freerunning to is someone who already knows what it is, then what good is that?
2. Don't do anything especially challenging when authorities are around.  It's better to show them the safer sides of parkour like conditioning or the very basics like rolling, running, and more basic vaults.
3. If an officer is in the area, consider taking the opportunity to approach him/her to tell them about parkour.  If you start the conversation, it's that many more brownie points toward establishing a good relationship with the authorities.
4. If an officer approaches you, DON'T RUN AWAY!  You shouldn't have a reason to run away, because you shouldn't be doing anything illegal.
5. In relation to 3 above, don't trespass in order to train, and don't train on rooftops.  You might think it looks cool in a video, but as a member of the early generations of parkour, you're going to be playing a big role in establishing parkour's reputation.  We want people to understand parkour for what it is, not as a bunch of "reckless youngsters climbing all over creation."
6. Be ready and willing to offer to show the officer a part of your training, MAKING SURE to emphasize the safety aspect of what we do.  You can show him/her conditioning, stretching, small vaults, landing and rolling, all the while explaining the mindset you have while you're doing this.  The officer will notice how physically demanding it is, but it wouldn't hurt to remind them that parkour is great exercise.
7. If an officer tells you to leave: no arguing.  It's better to leave and come back another day, than make the officer mad and be banned permanently.
8. If your run-in with the police turns out differently than you'd hoped, think about setting up a time to meet with the police department to make a presentation on parkour.  If you have more time and the officer's full attention, you can go more into depth about the history of parkour, as well as its benefits across the board.

I hope this has been helpful.  Comments and suggestions are welcome.  This is the first installment; next I'll be writing about how to set up a bigger, more informative presentation for a larger group.
« Last Edit: September 20, 2008, 12:47:10 AM by Eli Kurtz »

Offline Andy Keller

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Re: How to Talk to Authorities
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2008, 07:03:54 PM »
Very well done, man! Thanks for taking the time to do this, and I'm looking forward to the other parts.

I have a feeling that this will be referred to a lot in threads that have anything to do with cops.

+1 a few for this.
 ;)

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Offline Jack K

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Re: How to Talk to Authorities
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2008, 10:43:20 AM »
very good ideas all the way through, hopefully it helps prevents parkour becoming synonomous with skateboarding and the like.

+1
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Offline Eli Kurtz

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Re: How to Talk to Authorities
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2008, 05:23:07 PM »
Making a Parkour Presentation:

In my last article, I talked about how to give a quick overview about what parkour and freerunning are, in case you’re confronted by authorities and only have a minute or two to make sure the experience is a positive and in favor of your training.  In this article, I’m going to look at things on a larger scale, and provide some general advice for what should be included during a presentation to something like a school board, whether it be to ask permission to train on campus, or to be an actually recognized student organization, receiving funding and other benefits from the school.  This will primarily be in regards to college campuses, but the same guidelines and general rules could be applied easily enough toward a high school audience or a city-level group, such as an entire police department.

I’ve thought for the past week about the format I’d like this article to follow, and this is my intention: in the beginning, I’m going to tweak the guidelines for a short presentation to accommodate a meeting with more time and the full attention of the people to whom you are speaking.  Following this, I’m going to go ahead and post the proposal I’m working on to present to my own college.  In this way, I hope to give an example of the way in which all this information can be put together into something attractive to a governing body, but I’m also looking for constructive criticism on my presentation.  I want to make sure it’s the best that it can be before I present it, so advice from everybody (but especially from those who have done something like this before) is readily welcomed.  Here we go!

When presenting to a large group, your goals will be the same as when you tell an individual such as a police officer.  These goals are:
  • Define parkour/freerunning
  • Describe why parkour/freerunning are useful
  • Relate how parkour/freerunning are no more dangerous than any physical activity
  • Give an example of what a jam is like

Obviously, these things can be elaborated upon pretty easily (we’ve got a gaggle of threads here on the forum about each one).  Some of the things you can include in an expanded presentation like this are videos that show some of the training methods we use.  Specifically, Ozzi’s videos over at Urban Current are a great place to start.

Let’s address each of the other goals.  Defining parkour should be the easiest, because you should have had to pare down a lengthier definition to give to police officers; elaborating it a little more won’t require hardly any work.  Describing how parkour and freerunning are useful should be pretty easy, too: David Belle and his father Raymond were both recognized in the military for their outstanding service as fireman rescuers, and parkour and freerunning might be one of the most effective ways for developing all around fitness.  Add in some of the more philosophical concepts, like translating the overcoming of physical obstacles into the world of mental obstacles or barriers in the business or social world, and you’re set for a great list of pros.

Perhaps the most essential part of this whole presentation will be to make it clear parkour and freerunning are no more dangerous than any physical discipline, and that we are more than willing to take responsibility for any injuries we may receive during training.  It’s worth a mention that searching through the APK Injuries forum reveals very few injuries more serious than scrapes, bruises, and the occasional sprained ankle.  Yes, broken bones may happen, but these instances are extremely few and far between.  In our own interests, injuries that require long-term recoveries with little to no activity don’t benefit our training schedule, so all of us (should) take safety very seriously.

This can be exemplified by giving a sample “schedule” of a jam.  Of course, a major part of jams is the unplanned exploration and learning that takes place, but each jam should start with a warmup, feature some sort of drilling or conditioning, and end with a cooldown such as stretching.  Presenting a schedule (even if it won’t be followed all the time) shows that we take training seriously, and we’re willing to work to accomplish our goals.  It also lends a little bit of conformation to a discipline that is—admittedly—a little contrary to popular practice.

That being said, here is my own sample presentation.


(Sorry about his being coming so long after the first article.  Life has been fun these past two weeks.)

Offline Eli Kurtz

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Re: How to Talk to Authorities
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2008, 07:44:50 PM »
To make everyone aware, I'm having trouble getting my own presentation together.  I have a lot of information I want to include, but I don't want to be too wordy with it (which is a problem I have).  I've written about two pages worth of presentation right now, and my plan is to more or less scrap that, make a condensed outline, then start over.  Hopefully I'll have it up in the next four or five days.

Offline Zachary Cohn

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Re: How to Talk to Authorities
« Reply #6 on: September 30, 2008, 04:19:00 AM »
Email me, zac@americanparkour.com. You can also use my presentation as a guideline: http://www.zaccohn.com/parkour/ParkourPresentation.ppt

Tips: On the powerpoint - BE CONCISE. Use bullets, not sentences.

Offline Jpal

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Re: How to Talk to Authorities
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2009, 11:46:57 AM »
very good ideas all the way through, hopefully it helps prevents parkour becoming synonomous with skateboarding and the like.

+1

Yea Me being a skateboarder for around 8 years lost count i hope that parkour doesn't become associated with punk kids and other such like that. I think if everyone just shows respect for parkour and eachother we all should have no problems. 

Offline Zach Hu Zerdaty

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Re: How to Talk to Authorities
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2009, 04:18:22 PM »
I have gotten in trouble for trespassing, NOTE: the owners of the property let me by saying "We belive he was being respectfull to our property and we found hardly any trace of his apearence."
Peace - Zach Hu Zerdaty.

Offline Todd1

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Re: How to Talk to Authorities
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2009, 08:27:31 AM »
I had my first run-in with the authorities yesterday.  I was working with a small wall, doing hanging traverses and the like.  Well, apparently this sent up red flags to someone, because before too long an officer showed up.  I do have 25 years of skateboarding under my belt, so I am sort of used to being approached by police and security.  I was nothing but polite and cooperative with the officer.  The first thing she mentioned was about vandalism, which I told her had nothing to do with me.  I did my best to explain that I was training parkour, what it was, and that safety is always my first concern, and that within the parkour community there is a huge effort to "leave no trace" at the places we train.  She understood that it was good exercise, and that I wasn't some kid vandal, but ulimately she felt it was an improper use of the facilities.  After all, walls are meant to seperate areas, not to climb on.  I realize that I could've easily argued my point.  I could've told her that kids had been climbing that same wall for more than thirty years.  I could've said that there were no instructions at the park identifying the proper use of the facilities.  And I could've said that ultimately I was breaking no laws, and I would continue to train there.  But from my personal experience, I have found that even when the police are wrong, they are right.  And if you want to test them, you'll find that out the hard way.  So I chose to walk away, potentially losing a great wall.  Maybe some of you feel I should've fought it more (my friend does.)  But aside from not wanting to be pepper-sprayed for no reason once again, I felt I owed it to the PK community to try and represent us as responsible people, practicing a valid discipline. 

I am not a punk-kid skateboarder mouthing off to the cops anymore.  Yeah, I still skate, but I have my own kids now, and I owe it not only to myself and the rest of the PK community to be a good example.  But I also owe it to my children, the future of parkour, so that maybe some day they won't need to worry about trying to validate their discipline to the rest of society.  Skateboarding has made a lot of progress with being accepted by the masses, but it's taken many years to do this (X-games helped a lot.)  All I'm saying is that we can do better than skateboarding if we think of our actions as a reflection on the whole PK community now, and its future traceurs to come.
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Re: How to Talk to Authorities
« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2009, 07:14:45 AM »
Use bullets, not sentences.

Sounds like a cheesy line from an action movie  :P

Offline MetalPanda

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Re: How to Talk to Authorities
« Reply #11 on: March 26, 2009, 06:58:41 PM »
Use bullets, not sentences.

Sounds like a cheesy line from an action movie  :P
lmao. bullets as in bullet points. not actual bullets.

and great read! applauded.

Offline P.R. Stuart

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Re: How to Talk to Authorities
« Reply #12 on: March 28, 2009, 03:17:23 PM »
Well said, todd.  I think that is exemplary to how we should be treating these sort of incidents.
I decided not to put something deep here.  I'm in this for the physical aspect, the mental and spiritual are my own.

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Re: How to Talk to Authorities
« Reply #13 on: March 31, 2009, 05:44:48 PM »
Use bullets, not sentences.

Sounds like a cheesy line from an action movie  :P
lmao. bullets as in bullet points. not actual bullets.

and great read! applauded.

Are you aware of what a joke is?

Offline MetalPanda

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Re: How to Talk to Authorities
« Reply #14 on: March 31, 2009, 07:33:43 PM »
Use bullets, not sentences.

Sounds like a cheesy line from an action movie  :P
lmao. bullets as in bullet points. not actual bullets.

and great read! applauded.

Are you aware of what a joke is?
:D

No. lol

Offline reskukrew

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Re: How to Talk to Authorities
« Reply #15 on: June 08, 2009, 07:30:23 PM »
This is excellent, I hope you don't mind me posting the first part on the Parkour/Free-Running Australia forums. Credit where credit is due of course.
If you want me to take it down just lemme know.
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Offline ParkourBoy217

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Re: How to Talk to Authorities
« Reply #16 on: October 06, 2009, 05:59:20 PM »
First of all if you stay in one place for to long then the autorities will catch you.
S217s

Offline Yow

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Re: How to Talk to Authorities
« Reply #17 on: October 06, 2009, 06:24:58 PM »
First of all if you stay in one place for to long then the autorities will catch you.
That would do the complete opposite of what this thread focuses. You want to give a positive image of parkour. If you are doing parkour in the street and an police officer stops you it is better to talk to him about it not run away as he might think you are actually doing something illegal.