Vincent Champion, a 22-year veteran of the force, says retirement is far from relaxing. Former Ormond Beach police officer who used to chase bad men now works as a reserve investigator for the Florida State Attorney’s Office and represents his brothers and sisters in blue through the International Brotherhood of Police Officers.
Despite continuing to devote his life to helping the public even after retiring, Champion finds it hard to negotiate the split between those who support and those who dislike the thin blue line. He had no idea his newest woes would entail accessing a theme park.
Champion and his girlfriend, Holly Bickel, went to Universal Studios in Orlando just after supper, parked their car with a valet, and waited in line at the gate. But, after they arrived at the entry gate, they were detained for the strangest of reasons.
Champion told in an exclusive interview that he was surprised when the woman manning security refused him access as his shirt read “retired police officer” on a little patch on the front. A much larger decal on the reverse says, “My time is over, but my watch never ends.”
Champion could have easily walked away from the park with cash in hand. He and his girlfriend, on the other hand, had arranged to meet up with many other couples for a nice night out. Champion clenched his teeth and generously volunteered to flip his shirt inside out so as not to damage it for everybody. Sadly, this was insufficient to satisfy security.
The employee persisted despite stressing that the valet had removed his car and vowing to put on another shirt that a kind stranger had handed him. Champion ultimately persisted on communicating with the management, expecting to rectify the matter.
The supervisor declined to let Champion inside the park for over an hour, saying repeatedly, they have a policy that people can’t wear any police gear. When Champion demanded to see the policy, the supervisor presented a placard barring gang emblems and profane language but not “police gear.”
Ultimately, the supervisor let Champion in, most likely due to the mounting fury from other diners. The supervisor stated that because the shirt lacks a badge or the phrase “police,” it should be fine.
Due to the embarrassment and hardship he endured, Champion has sworn never to return to Universal Studios. He laments the park’s prohibition on wearing clothes depicting the force, implying that his shirt may deter consumers from misbehaving at the park since “what are the chances anybody would do something in front of me?”
When Champion’s girlfriend contacted Universal Studios, the park emphasized once more that they have a policy against “police gear.” Nonetheless, they have yet to provide proof of such a strategy and have failed to react to follow-up queries.