A vegan in law enforcement…yup, I was pleasantly surprised, delighted and in awe!  I am always looking for new vegan talent, new people to interview because everyone has a different story or experience to tell.  Thirty-five-year-old David Anthony AKA tactical vegan on IG, is the new subject for my blog interviews and it was an awesome interview, more of a conversation than an interview.  I discovered this officer of the law on a fellow influencer’s stories and I couldn’t believe my eyes, even though veganism is more in the mainstream now, I feel that it is still a little rare to see a vegan that is not in the fitness or medical industries.  This interview was very honest and real, David made it clear that he was open to discussing controversial topics like being a black man in law enforcement, police brutality, along with veganism and everything that goes along with it.  We did this interview via video conference because David lives in Nevada; and due to security reasons, I will not be saying what exact department he works for, what his exact title is, or go into too much detail on what his job entails; just the basics and that he works in the vicinity of Las Vegas.

Alba:
Hi David!  Thanks so much for joining me (I notice that he’s sitting outside in the grass…I’m thinking to myself that he must be scorching, Las Vegas is in the dessert after all), I reached out after I saw that you did some promo photos for the TV show COPS.

David:
Yes, I had an opportunity to take some photos, a buddy of mine who used to work for COPS, modeled for the upcoming season for COPS, so I volunteered.

I asked David if there is the possibility of him been featured on an episode, or his job is a little too hush-hush to be featured.  He tells me that the show goes to their department a lot, and cameras have ridden with him on patrol, but nothing exciting has happened that was worth putting on video yet.  I know that I’ll be watching an episode featuring a vegan cop!

Alba:
So, tell me about yourself, I know you are a police officer and what exactly do you do in law enforcement?

David:
I am part of a specialized unit and our primary objective is protests (Woah! Protests…), riot control, protection, like when the president is in town, kings, senators, we handle their protection with secret service and capital police.  We do enforcement in high crime areas, there are areas in Vegas that are out of control with violent crime, they’ll send us in to clean it up.  We do training, a lot of training, we train the academy in riot control and how to handle protests, we pretty much do everything, we multitask as a unit, so there’s never a dull moment.

Alba:
Have you met our president?  Or seen him up close when he comes to the Vegas area?

David:
Yes, I have.

I nod my head and there’s a long pause…

Alba:
Mmm…And…?

David:
(Long laugh) He’s a great guy, I can’t say nothing bad about him, he’s pro law enforcement…mmm…I really can’t say nothing bad about him.

Alba:
I know a lot of people reading this will be wondering what does he look like, what does he sound like, is he really that tanned??

David:
(Laughs again) He looks exactly how you see him in his interviews; I’ve met Hillary and Bill Clinton and Ben Carson, and I can’t say anything bad about any of them.

I wonder to myself that it must be a ton of stress protecting such important people from around the world like our leaders and other foreign dignitaries.  Coming from a medical background I do not know much about the type of work that law enforcement does, other than patrolling, writing tickets and police dog work; but based on the description of his work, I wondered if it is the same as SWAT.  David answers that it has nothing to do with SWAT and they are a completely different line of work (if there are any vegan SWAT members, please reach out to me).

The conversation turns to the requirements to becoming a police officer; David has been on the force for almost ten years and the training for becoming one is extensive.  Anyone who wants to be in law enforcement needs to have some level of fitness because testing ranges from running, sprinting, pushups, sit-ups, vertical jumps, obstacle courses and he recommends that the nutrition needs to be on point.  All this fitness is to just to get into the academy and they also have something called a “grip test”.  David explains that it is a machine that you grip, squeeze and it measures the pressure of your squeeze.

Alba:
So, you pretty much have to have the grip of Lou Ferrigno to pass this test?

David:
(Laughs) or Thor! (laughs some more) you don’t have to have all that strength, have some sort of strength and there’s some people out there that have none.

Fitness is not the only thing that you need to pass, there is also an intelligence test, a psych evaluation and background check.  All these are usually done once, and this gets me thinking on the weight that we have seen on many cops and the cliché of cops and donuts.

Alba:
If these tests are only done once to get into the force, could that be the reason why you see many cops who are… (how to put this nicely) voluptuous?

David:
(Laughs again) to put it nicely, yes, they are fat; not all departments are like that; other departments have quarterly qualifications as far as physical fitness goes.  My department does not, and several years ago I tried to bring that back, but it wasn’t approved; we get gym discounts on memberships, so the thinking is that it’s up to the individual person to get in shape.  It is quite common that police officers have bad diets, especially if you work the graveyard shift, it’s a lot of fast food and convenience stores.  We have yearly physicals, and lots of cops fail miserably on their physicals because of their blood tests or urine tests, cholesterol or high blood pressure.  You’ll get letters in your email telling you to change, that you are susceptible to heart disease, etc.  That alone, for people who are strong willed, is enough; I was lucky to see the error in my ways and change, it’s the reason why I became vegan.

I find it shocking, senseless and irresponsible that a police department does not enforce fitness.  How do you expect your department to run after the bad guy, and said bad guy is more fit than you?  David agrees, it is a problem, there is no correlation; for example, nurses must renew their licenses every two years because medicine is constantly changing.  We have to take different classes and workshops to qualify for renewal; like nurses, law enforcement, are serving the community and it does not help if we are not fit to work.  I ask David if the departments understand this and he tells me that yes, but again is not enforced.

David:
I think that is wrong, because I believe strongly in physical fitness and nutrition obviously; unlike other career fields, if you are out of shape, it can mean your demise, you can die because of that.  Like you said, you’re chasing bad guys, bad guys who are physically fit, what do you think they do in prison all day?  They work out, and unfortunately, we are not held into a high standard of fitness.  My sheriff is in great shape, in that respect you cannot also expect the force to hold your hand, there must be some level of accountability.  That is up to us, we know the negative side of law enforcement, we know that there are people training, and their job is to kill us.  If we are the ones sitting on the couch eating potato chips and bon-bons, that is on us; we can’t expect our department to hold our hands or coddle us.  Everyone is different, that’s why you have cops who are in fantastic shape and others who are not.

It makes sense, police work is dangerous, and cops do need to take responsibility for what they put in their mouths; however, the safety and well being of a community is also in their hands and that has to be taken, I believe, into account if you chose to not be fit to do your job.  This part of the conversation reminds me of the first Men in Black movie when Will Smith’s character was chasing the bad guy that turned out to be an alien, and he was the only one that could keep up because everyone else was overweight.

Remembering Men in Black, brings the conversation to one very controversial topic.  David is of Black/Hispanic descend, and we all have seen so much police brutality in the news, the Black Lives Matter Movement and wondered how this affects him as a cop of color.  Does he get insults or hate for been on the “side of the man?”.

David:
Those numbers are not good, and I know that, and a lot of people don’t know that because they don’t see the positive side of law enforcement because negativity is all they see in the news.  The fact is that the less than 1% of the police population is committing these atrocities.  Any leader will tell you, change happens from within, so I get that 1% and unfortunately, the public is only witnessing this 1% because of what the news is showing them.  I can make a difference, each person I come in contact with, I can show them, what you are watching is false, it’s not all of us.  It’s like eating meat, we are conditioned to think a certain way, we are conditioned to think that all police officers are bad or racists and that is furthest from the truth.  These things always happen during election season, you start seeing an influx in the news of police brutality.

I ask David where he got the statistics for police brutality if one wants to do their own research, and it comes from the FBI, they do the statistics on the police departments.  David continues that when people talks about police officers killing other people, they don’t take into consideration the officer’s lives, they have guns for a reason, not everyone is unarmed, and again that is the

1%.  He encourages people to do their own research, his department has over 4,000 cops and their department has not been on CNN or FOX news.  This is interesting to me, I am the type of person who likes to do her own research and I have worked with many members of law enforcement during my years in the ER during the FLAKKA epidemic in Miami.  There is a level of trust that grows with cops because you are depending on them to protect you, the patients and visitors.  I also had a question on why the departments are releasing the body cam videos to the public and if that something that can cause more harm than good.

David:
That was the choice of the heads of the departments, but mainly to keep the transparency, the public at one time demanded them, now you get to see what goes on.  And, to answer your question, yes, I have gotten hate, been called names from the Black community; anything from the N word, bitch, Uncle Tom, pig, etc.; but I won’t judge the whole Black community for the actions of the few.  If I expect people not to judge us(cops) why should I do that to them?  Just because someone calls me a name, doesn’t mean everyone else is going to do that; I have more respect than I have hate.  It’s about maturity and understanding what’s there in front of you; that person might be upset because we are arresting their cousin, or arresting them, so obviously they’re going to say something.  I’ve shaken more hands, than I have heard nasty comments.

I recently saw a clip of a show called Blackish in which the parents were teaching their kids on what to do if they get stopped by the cops and police brutality.  David has a son and I asked him if that is something him and his wife are planning on teaching their son.

David:
It’s not about race but about respect, when I get pulled over (wait, what?!), at night especially, I turn all the lights on and keep my hands on the wheel and it’s “yes ma’am, yes sir” or “no ma’am, no sir”.  It is about being respectful, and a lot of people aren’t because of an area that is been pushed by certain groups.  Treat like you want to be treated, cops are human too, their actions are going to be dictated by your actions. 

Alba:
I have to ask, have you gotten pulled over a lot?

David:
We both laugh.  Not a lot!  It was for speeding, but I accounted to it.

Alba:
Let’s turn the conversation to veganism now, how long have you been in the movement and how did you start?

David:
I’ve being vegan about three years now and my wife was vegan when I met her.  She stopped and when we met she went back to veganism, I think now it’s more mainstream, I think everyone, and their mom has heard the term vegan; they might not know what it all means because they still think we eat fish or eggs.  I did my own research; my wife did not shove videos or propaganda down my throat.  I actually blew my knee out at work, combine that with high cholesterol and high blood pressure, caused me to re-evaluate my life.  Sometimes people need that kick in the ass to jumpstart their life.  What I ended up doing was researching “how to heal faster” and veganism and plant-based diets kept coming up.  I picked up a book called The China Study and that changed my life, I was reading detailed studies on the benefits of being vegan.  All this shit that I grew up, all the things I was conditioned to believe, was false; my whole life, as far as nutrition went, was a lie.  So, I decided, pretty much overnight to change, I had three surgeries in one sitting to my PCL (posterior cruciate ligament), meniscus and tendon; I was bedridden for a long time, I couldn’t work out and couldn’t do physical activity.  The only thing I was in control of was what I ate and drank, I made sure I ate living food, plants, fruits and vegetables.  I started healing faster and faster, my doctor and physical therapist were very impressed on how fast I was improving.  My doctor told me that he expected me to be close to 100% in two years, I was 100% in less than a year.  I owe that to what I ate and how I thought, your mental state is very important, especially when you’re down and out, when you feel you can’t do much.  You have to believe, my affirmation was “I will be better than I once was”.  I repeated that everyday and sure enough I became better than I was once, I can jump higher, I am faster, and I am stronger.   

This is similar to what Will Brooks AKA Vegan Iron Ape and Jordan David, Conscious Muscle, told me in our interviews, after converting to veganism their bodies healed faster from pain and their workout routines.  Which brings us to the next part of the interview, I can only imagine how David must get teased for being a vegan in the department.  He said yes, he gets teased, but he teases right back, and at the end of the day the same people who teases, respect him and they have approached him to ask questions on veganism.  I ask myself, why do vegans get teased so much or disrespected when we choose not to consume animal products?  There are many different reasons for becoming vegan: health, beauty, environment or compassion; but many are choosing because of the suffering and pain of another sentient being.  When did it become accepted that compassion was something to make fun of or ridicule?

David:
I want to rewind a bit on the part when people say that you are working for “the man” by being vegan or standing up for animals, that’s not true.  When you look at fast food restaurants that are built in inner-city neighborhoods or predominantly black neighborhoods; and you shop there, eat there and start getting diseases, that is working for “the man”.  Those are government funded restaurants and you are contributing to that and to the medical industry.  Being vegan, growing your own food, having gardens, I guarantee we could bankrupt the medical industry.  Unfortunately, we go with convenience and we end up paying for that later on; so, when someone says that I am working for “the man” by being vegan and a cop, I just ask what are you eating?  Do your research and you’ll realize that you are the one working for “the man”, I am trying to make a difference. 

David continue by stating that others of color who are making a difference, not only in the Black community, but other communities as well, by educating on veganism and plant-based eating are Torre Washington, Dom Thompson, Jon Lewis to name a few.  I also believe that there is a lack of education on a lot of issues that we have in our world today; and in my own practice I have seen it.  Take the medical field, people have become so dependent on medications, not to say that all medications are bad, or all medical procedures are unnecessary.  If you have a headache, there’s a pill for that, but no one talks about lifestyle medicine, how could that headache have been prevented?  For example, does the patient drink enough water based on their height/weight and activity level, does the patient have high blood pressure, etc., and how can we modify that to prevent the headaches in the future?

Alba:
Tell me more about your experience in your department, when you made the transition to veganism was your captain worried that you wouldn’t be able to work the same?

David:
Not at all, the feedback that I got from people who recognized me from the news and my postings were all positive.  “Hey! You’re that vegan guy!” My department has been very supportive, when food is ordered I get asked if I want any.  There’s a donut place called Ronald’s Donuts here is Vegas (insert donut/cop joke here!), ask Torre, he’ll know about that (laughs).  Torre is my coach, so he has a meal plan for me of how many calories, protein and fat I can eat for me to achieve the physique that I asked him for.  I do have cheat days and girlfriend, I do not have a slice of cake for my birthday, I do the whole thing (more laughter)!  Also, I need to bake two cakes so that I can share with my wife and son.

Wow! Torre is his trainer…he must die every day…Torre is hardcore, maybe I should reach out to him.  Speaking of his son, I ask if his son has also grown up vegan, David says no, his son was not very interested the first year, but he’s five now and a full vegan.  He asks if the food is vegan, loves the lifestyle, he is not restricted in any way and if there’s cupcakes at school, they make sure that he has his vegan cupcakes, so he doesn’t feel left out.  It makes my heart happy when I see vegan kids, it makes the work that we are doing all worth to see the new generations showing interest in the lifestyle.  I remember that David mentioned that he works in protests and riots; and I wonder if David protests or goes on vigils with his family.  In my work I have met some awesome activist families that protest together like Vegan Evan and his mom Shannon, and Kayla and Mike Leaming with their kids from That Activist Family.  They have gotten criticized on social media for taking their kids on vigils where animals are actively slaughtered and where there’s violence.  Some people don’t realize that violence starts with what’s on your plate and what you are feeding your kids.

David:
Kids are the best activist, they are not afraid to speak up, unfortunately, once we start getting older, the fears start coming into our lives.  They’ll say “Hey! Don’t eat that, that’s my friend!”.  I do not do protests, my big thing is, instead of doing protests, I prefer to be in front of a hospital educating.  I am not downplaying any protesters, I have good friends who are protesters, but it’s not for me. 

I ask David if he has had to deal with protestor breaking into a slaughterhouses/dairy farms and taking the animals and how does he deal with that as a vegan.

David:
No, the protestors here in Vegas are very respectful of the law, we do have a first amendment right that protects us on having freedom of speech and a right to protest; but the moment that you start trespassing, breaking into places, and destroying property, I understand the reasoning behind it, but the next day it’ll be same thing.  They will bring more animals, have them caged up, and kill them.  What people fail to understand is that they need to change the law.  The need to go to their local government, write letters and try to get them to understand the error of their ways.  Protestors here, for the most part, have thanked us for helping them have a peaceful protest.

It is not always like that, I have only protested in SoFlo and some of the cops do not protect the peaceful protesters.  One of those examples was during Noche Buena pig vigil at Mary’s Ranch in Hialeah.  Many of the experiences from the protestors was that the cops did nothing in regards to protecting the protestors, cars got extremely close to the area that protestors were allowed to stand, as if to run them over, they did not put order.  Others have experiences in which cops have turned a blind eye to them been assaulted or harassed.  David tells me that he cannot speak for other departments, but his department takes care of protestors.  His department had an experience at the rodeo in Las Vegas back in December in which peaceful protestors were been harassed with profanities and drivers were putting the protestors in danger with their cars.  Let us remember that this country has a history of protesting, we live in a country in which we have that right to speak our minds and stand for what we believe in; other people don’t have that luxury.  We have footage of protests from the suffragist movement for women to have the right to vote, protesting the Vietnam War, the feminist’s movement, the civil rights movement, LGBTQ movement, and now the animal rights movement and many others.

David:
Advice I give to leaders of a protest is to contact a representative of the local police department and ask about what you can or cannot do.  That will remove a lot of issues, unfortunately, people just show up and start doing their thing and don’t realize that the first amendment says that we dictate time, place and manner.  I have friends who protest, and they call me letting me know that they are planning on protesting so that I can be there.  If I cannot be there, ask the police officer that is on scene.  We do not want to arrest anyone for a small misdemeanor, let’s arrest for a major violation.  

Shocking!  That’s awesome advice, I never thought of that, let’s become friends with all the vegan cops in the various departments so that we can stay out of jail!  Or make friends with any cop, turn them vegan and we’ll be all set!  David and I couldn’t stop laughing at this point.  I think I got the best ab workout just from laughing.  I could talk to David all day, but we are coming to the end of the interview and David has some last words.

David:
Law enforcement and veganism is not so different, we get chastised for the actions of the few.  You get one cop that decides to do a bad shooting and suddenly, all cops are ruthless and barbarians; the same with veganism, you get one militant vegan that forces their view on everyone, and suddenly all vegans are like that.  Stop judging people based on their profession, we are all human, love trumps hate.

What an amazing conversation, I cannot call it an interview because we touched on all subjects that I had in my notes to ask.  I really hope that everyone learns something from this conversation, I know I did, and I will be interviewing more vegan people out there.  I’m talking to you, I know you have an amazing story to tell…who will I interview next?

 

Alba Mendez is a nurse working and living in South Florida and is the Media Coordinator for SoFlo Vegans.  She can be reached at [email protected] and on social media theveg_nurse .  Follow SoFlo Vegans for more information, podcast episodes, interviews, events and giveaways.

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