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Dawn Irwin Trains Roller Cops in London

An article by Dawn Irwin, Director of Instructor Training for the United Kingdom Inline Skating Association.

Roller Skating in the United Kingdom

From Dawn Irwin in April of 2000...

I thought I would tell you about the launch of the first ever Inline Skating Police Force in the United Kingdom. It is the Royal Parks Constabulary.

I had the idea for a roller cop patrol way back in 1996 after two "incidents" which made national press and which were erroneously reported by the gutter journalists. These incidents have been referred to time and time again because unfortunately they will remain for ever more in the cuttings. They sparked off a knee jerk reaction which resulted in bans in some parks and serious gravelling (tar and chip) throughout the others in an effort to "stop the bladers".

Anyway, it remained just an idea until May 1997 when I came to the US to do my Examiner training with the IISA. I saw the first ever Hypno transport skates and suddenly my idea began to take on some semblance of reality. On that same training course was John Kuch, a law enforcement officer from Fairfax VA.

Through 1998 I witnessed the evolving of the transport skate and finally, around February 1999 I Emailed John as I wanted to put my idea in writing, but needed some law enforcement type input. "Funny you should ask" he said, as he had been thinking the same thing for about the same number of years and in fact had prepared something which he felt I might be interested in reading. John and I basically colluded on a proposal that would suit the Royal Parks Police Force and I submitted it on 4th April 1999. Eleven months later I got the go ahead to begin training the guys, and now they're up and rolling and it's just - well, fantastic. Over the course of these eleven months I also had valuable input from my very good friend and IISA Examiner Katina Salafatinos who trains the Miami police.

John came over to London to help me with the launch, and it was so successful that I/we are still reeling from the fallout. We were on approximately ten TV shows (including the US), approximately 16 newspapers (all the nationals and some local), approximately 8 radio shows and some of the professional police newsletters/magazines and some UK inline trade magazines.

It was a hectic three days, starting with the Monday which was blistering hot, but then it decided to dump down on Tuesday and Wednesday (press days). Good old British weather!! Still, everything was arranged and we had no choice but to go ahead, even though we absolutely do NOT advocate skating in wet conditions. Thankfully the photos don't reflect the fact that conditions weren't ideal. We had a hell of a clean up job to do on our skates, though!

The award for outstanding Dude of the week went to my good friend and fellow IISA instructor Andy Moran who arranged for us to have the Rollerblade Derby skates on time, after the Hypno distributors pulled out without telling me!!! The Derby has now become the recognised Police Skate, and I just hope Rollerblade keep making 'em.

We finally got John back to Heathrow at an ungodly hour on the Thursday morning and I'm sure he didn't know whether it was "raining or Ash Wednesday" (UK saying) as he was so exhausted. Needless to say, when my "other half" dropped me back at home all my plans for that day flew swiftly out the window as I collapsed with exhaustion!!!!!!

From the point of view of skating in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, this is a huge step. Having the "establishment" skating could lead to several things: namely breaking down the barriers of prejudice that have been fostered by the gutter journalists; maybe re-tarmaccing some of the "banned" pathways and maybe even lifting the bans in some of the other parks. All we need now is a couple of really positive stories to help foster good relations, as naturally some (but just a minor few) journalists have tried to poke fun and find holes in the scheme. Anyway, only time will tell, and now when I'm teaching in the Park, and I see some criminal activity going on, at least I'm in mobile phone contact with the skating police who won't be too far away.

Best wishes to everyone from London, UK.

Dawn Irwin
IISA Level 2
Former IISA Examiner
Director of Instructor Training
United Kingdom Inline Skates
Association since May 1999

See also:
  • InlineOnline.co.uk - Dawn Irwin with Bobbies

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