It’s spring break for students in Bellevue and at the Bellevue Skate Park, skateboarding camp is on. But one of the skaters definitely stands out among the crowd of elementary school kids in Vans: Bellevue’s skateboarding police officer Craig Hanaumi.
“I’m good for a 41-year-old police officer,” he says, dressed in full uniform, skating alongside the kids, weaving in and out of the orange cones.
Hanaumi’s official job title is not “skateboarding police officer,” rather, it’s community station officer.
“We take calls, make arrests,” Hanaumi said. “The additional thing we have is we’re allowed to devote time to build relationships in the community. Sometimes it’s here at the skate park, sometimes it’s at the skate bowl in Crossroads. Sometimes it’s not skateboarding — Jujitsu, teaching self defense, playing trombone once in a while. The main thing is just making connections, which is much easier to do in activity.”
Craig Hanaumi: Skateboarding police officer
Officer Hanaumi moved to Bellevue from Honolulu 11 years ago to join the police force. But his love of skateboarding sparked long before that.
“I grew up on Oahu,” he said. “Probably 1985, ’86, right when ‘Back to the Future’ came out; ‘Search For Animal Chin,’ featuring the Bones Brigade. That, in combination with ‘License To Ill,’ the Beastie Boys album came out in ’86. So all those things combined was the perfect storm for skateboarding. After that I was hooked. It was 5th grade probably, and for the next three years I skateboarded every day.
Now he uses his hobby to connect with kids … and adults. He tries to get out and skate with a group of 30 and 40-something Microsoft employees about once a week on their lunch break.
“Outreach is to connect, that’s the main reason,” Hanaumi said. “But the other reason is that it makes people more comfortable with us. And in this climate, how it is now, there is a negative connection between police and anything. I think people don’t realize that if there’s a negative connection, it makes people less likely to report stuff. From witnesses, especially victims. It’s a sad thing when people are telling their children not to trust the police, because if that child becomes the victim of a crime, how conflicted are they going to be to report something. I mean, I’ve seen it enough times to see that it works. There were cold cases that were not going anyplace that got broken open because of information that we built through establishing rapport. That’s not the reason why we do it, but it definitely is a side benefit of making connections and building relationships.”
Officer Hanaumi has a popular Instagram page that shows the skateboarding police officer coasting in uniform, playing the ukulele with a kid, playing trombone with the Bellevue Presbyterian Trombone Choir, teaching self defense and jujitsu, and often flashing a Hawaiian “hang loose” hand at the camera. One viral video shows him on duty, responding to a call.
“These kids were skating, they weren’t suppose to skate there, someone called,” said Josh Anderson, a pro skater and skateboarding instructor at the camp. “He showed up and instead of kicking them out he was like, ‘Hey guys, can I try your board? Can I try a couple tricks?’ He did a few tricks and he was like, ‘Okay, well, I can’t have you skate here, but go check out the park.’ Just be cool to them. Most cops are kind of mean to you, so you’re not feeling like you’re welcome. You’re just more nervous. It’s changed with him because he makes it feel open and welcome. I feel like if I got caught in the street skating in a place I shouldn’t be, he’d be a little more kind. Understand. Because he’s been there.”
I asked Cole Kapela, a skateboard camp attendee, what he thought about seeing a cop on a skateboard.
“I thought it was weird, because I thought he was going to come arrest the guy who owned it because he was in his police uniform and he had his gun,” Kapela said.
Officer Hanaumi does skate with a gun, as well as a vest, adding about 25 pounds of extra weight. He also wears heavy police issue boots, which aren’t exactly ideal for skateboarding.
“The gun is safe, by the way,” Officer Hanaumi said. “It has a triple retention holster so it’s not coming out. Plus, there’s safety mechanisms built into this handgun anyway. I already cleared it with my firearms instructor. I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t safe.”
Kapela said Hanaumi is a good skater, and he’s never seen a cop on a board before, let alone shared a skate park with one.
“It was really surprising to me, it’s really cool!” Kapela said.
For anyone who thinks Officer Hanaumi isn’t working, he’ll set the record straight.
“If we only respond to calls, the only time we’ll be connected to any situation will be a bad situation,” Hanaumi said. “It’s hard to build rapport in a bad situation. It’s hard to quantify or put on an Excel sheet. Building connections, making people feel comfortable, you can’t really gauge that on paper but it’s priceless.”