AMERICA'S TOUGHEST COP ALIVE
AT: Not necessarily. It doesn't really matter how big you are. It's what you bring into the competition. It's how bad you want it. Some guys are very muscular and imposing, but they don't do well. When they get into the pool, they sink like a rock.
GS: How does your fitness affect your police work?
AT: A lot of gang-infested neighborhoods in LA have fences around the building to keep the bad guys out. Unfortunately, sometimes these fences also keep us out. With all the gear that we wear when we're in the field, it can be real hard going over the fences. These little gangsters are running around in their dickeys, T-shirts and sneakers. My strength, agility and speed have been real helpful to gain access to those kind of places. A lot of times it's prevented instances before they've happened. Because we're in shape, people don't even fight us. I've had very few instances where people have actually challenged me. When they do fight, I can take them down real fast. I have no doubts about my skill level. It's not that I'm all cocky, I just know what I can do. I know what I can't do too. There are some instances where you use your head instead of your fists. Before this, I was in the martial arts, so that helps too.
GS: Which martial arts did you study?
AT: It was Corean karate, taekwondo. I studied for seven years.
GS: Don't gangbangers also study martial arts?
AT: I don't know a whole bunch of gangsters who have the discipline to study martial arts. What they do is go grab an Uzi [machine gun] or something. More prevalent are the guys who go to state prison and weight train all day. They also train on disarming techniques. They train on how to kill officers with pencils and pens. On how to defeat our search techniques. How to take advantage of an officer who's trying to be nice. They perceive that as weakness. They're not operating from the same standpoint that you and I are. They really don't have much to lose. All they can do is go back to prison. It's not like they have a whole lot to look forward to. Prison for them in a lot of cases is just a meeting place and a training area. GS: Can you identify the ex-cons easily when you meet them on the street?
AT: A good street cop can tell, usually. You can identify a lot of them by their tattoos. Of the way they stand. A lot of them have big upper bodies and little legs because they only do the upper-body workouts in prison.
GS: Do you think more cops should train the way you do?
AT: The stereotypical police officer is seen as sitting in a donut shop with crumbs on his shirt. When someone thinks of a police officer they usually think of a hard-drinking guy who eats whatever he wants and smokes a cigar. That's not the image that I, or the guys I know, want to portray. That kind of activity doesn't produce a street-safe officer. Of course, there's a lot more to police work than athletic prowess. If you're stupid, you'll get killed just as fast as a fat guy will. But, all things being equal, wouldn't you rather have someone on the street who's physically in shape? People who stay fit are usually more self-confident and aren't as prone to be stressed out.
GS: Does your physical training help you deal with the high stress of police work?
AT: Absolutely. I've had some tough times in this department. Things have happened to me personally and professionally that have created a lot of stress. If it wasn't for my athletic interest, I probably would be in a lot worse shape. PAGE 4