POCATELLO — The Pocatello police force got significantly stronger Thursday morning after adding both Superman and the first-ever Ultimate Fighting Championship Hall of Fame inductee to its reserve officer squad.
Former Superman Dean Cain from the 1990s hit show “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” as well as UFC 1 champion and Hall of Fame inductee Royce Gracie took the oath and were sworn in as Pocatello police reserve officers during a Thursday morning ceremony at the Pocatello Police Department.
The Idaho State Journal spoke to Cain and Gracie on Wednesday evening during a firearms training in which both men shared their perspectives on various aspects of the current movement calling for the defunding of law enforcement agencies and their motivation for backing the men and women in blue during these tumultuous times.
“I grew up the grandson of a Navy commander and my uncle was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force,” Cain said about his decision to become a reserve police officer. “We had that military influence in the family and I’ve always had that respect for the military, law enforcement and first responders. I’ve always looked at them as heroes.”
Moreover, Cain said as a former football player, he understands what it’s like to work under pressure.
“But that is on a football field,” Cain added. “Police officers deal with life-and-death situations in real life every single day all the time. There are parallels between football players and police officers, but this is the big boy club. The opportunity to come up here, especially during this very tumultuous time, is an honor. I’m humbled to get sworn in as a police officer here in Pocatello and be here to say, ‘Listen, the men and women in blue are superheroes to me and they should be to you, too.’”
Gracie, a current resident of Los Angeles, said he’s hopeful he can take some of the practices and training being implemented here in Southeast Idaho back to the men and women serving in the Golden State.
“I love to help the police officers whenever I can,” Gracie said. “At home in LA, when I leave the house I surely hope the police know what they are doing so if I can help them out in any way, I will.”
Cain and Gracie opted to become reserve Pocatello police officers via their participation in the CACF Foundation, which protects children from child predators, active shooters, bullying and teenage suicide. The program has become very popular with small agencies that need extra help and funding, according to its website.
Much like the sentiment of Pocatello Police Chief Roger Schei, Cain described the current movement to defund police departments, “as a scary, scary proposition.” In fact, Cain believes the opposite should be happening, in that law enforcement agencies throughout the country should be getting more money to provide additional funding for more rigorous training, especially the sort that involves teaching officers the practices involved with community-oriented policing.
“The amount of training we’ve had in the last two days has been phenomenal,” Cain said. “If other officers throughout the country were trained like Chief Schei trains his guys here, I think we’d be in a lot better shape as a police force in the nation.”
Cain continued, “The idea that people are vilifying the police is insane to me. I understand there is a groundswell for changing police policies but the way that Chief Schei does it here is the right way. This is a great example of unity and community policing. If we could implement what he is doing nationwide, I think we would be in a much better place. I am clearly making a point in joining now because the zeitgeist is going one way and it should be going the other way.”
There are, however, aspects of the defund the police movement that Cain said he can support. For instance, Cain said he believes the use of social workers responding to calls involving those dealing with mental health issues could enhance the role of law enforcement agencies.
“Social workers shouldn’t replace police officers, but could enhance their roles is how I would describe it,” Cain said. “The mental health calls that these guys go on is never something they want to do. They are not specifically trained to handle these situations as if they are experts. Police officers deal with threats, they are not there to be a social worker, so if a social worker can take some of that load off the police officer’s hands, I think that is a great idea.”
Cain said he doesn’t support banning the use of chokeholds, primarily because the term itself can be deceptive. Cain said that it’s not the type of hold itself that should be scrutinized, but the training involved with teaching officers how to implement the hold and when to resort to such use of force.
“When you say chokehold that is a very deceptive term,” Cain said. “We have Royce Gracie here who could choke me out in a heartbeat and in a safe manner. I’d rather have Royce Gracie choke me out than knock me out, but police officers are trained to use a carotid hold, it’s not even a chokehold. You don’t shut off a person’s airway; you stop the blood flow to the brain, the person goes to sleep and they wake up in a minute. Chief Schei trains many ways to subdue a suspect without force and talks about it frequently. It’s hard to say you are going to ban chokeholds because there are five different carotid holds you can do.”
In speaking about why officers use carotid holds or neck restraints, Gracie added, “Chokeholds are not the only way to subdue an opponent. There are maneuvers and locks to get a person to move from one point to another. The idea is to get the person in handcuffs, not to beat them up. In the first UFC, the order my father gave to me was to win without hurting your opponent. And that is in the UFC, the first sanctioned sport where men basically fight to the death. A sport where we are paid to rip each other’s heads off my dad told me he didn’t want to see any blood. He told me to win without drawing blood and hurting your opponents.”
Despite what appears to be a very fractured relationship between police and many of the people they swore an oath to protect and serve, Cain and Gracie are optimistic positive change will be the result of the current unrest.
“I think there will be positive change because this is unprecedented,” Cain said. “This is a big, bad, ugly situation where police officers are being vilified and they shouldn’t be, but maybe in the long run that will be a positive thing.”
Gracie added, “What I heard from the chief today, these guys are heading in the right direction. But they have been doing it right in this area for a long time already. This is not something new for them. Because one officer screws up doesn’t mean that all of them are bad. We are all humans. We have to have trust in the system.”
And so long as police officers continue to protect what Chief Schei describes as a gift, which is the level of bi-lateral trust between a law enforcement agency and the citizenry it’s promised to keep safe.
“We need to continue to move forward,” Schei said. “We need to look at each other as humans, not for their race, religion, origin, orientation or a profession. You can’t look at a group of people and judge them based on one person. My big thing is to protect the gift and what I mean by that is to protect the gift of trust that our community gives us. Because one guy did not protect the gift it has sent our country into a tailspin. And that infuriates me. We have to continue to get better and every day is a tryout. We can’t take anything for granted.”