CANNON BEACH — Before being able to serve, every police officer candidate in Oregon must pass a physical abilities test — think a police work-themed obstacle course.
The course involves balance beams, jumping under and over a variety of objects and racing up staircases. It’s a grueling feat, but Jacob Anderson — Cannon Beach Police Department’s newest recruit — couldn’t help but feel uniquely qualified.
“The first time I saw it, I was like, ‘Ah — this is just like parkour,’” Anderson said.
Before becoming a police officer, Anderson spent the majority of his life training as a gymnast, dancer, martial artist and parkour instructor.
“The best way to describe (parkour) is finding the most efficient way to get from point A to point B,” he said. “It’s learning how to traverse obstacles by just using your own body.”
Originally from Grants Pass, the Astoria resident grew his love for all things acrobatic at his aunt’s gymnastics gym. Through that he developed a passion for pushing his body to the limit.
“I quickly saw I didn’t enjoy traditional sports, but I still had the passion to be an athlete,” he said.
He eventually moved to California to study kinesiology — the study of human body movement — at California State University, Sacramento. But after some scheduling conflicts led him to take dance classes to fill some extra credit hours, he quickly fell in love with the art and switched his major to dance.
For the next few years, Anderson designed and taught parkour and gymnastics to children in the Sacramento area. But through it all, a career in law enforcement always lingered in the back of his mind.
“When I was a little kid, people would ask me what I wanted to be and I would say a police officer,” Anderson said. “I didn’t have parents or aunts or uncles who were (police officers), but it’s just what I always said. I don’t know why but I have always thought about it.”
A year and a half ago, Anderson and his wife, Melissa, decided they wanted to move back to Oregon to be closer to family. After some strategic Googling, the two decided the North Coast’s natural beauty and cultural feel was a good place to raise their two children.
Anderson picked up a tech support job at the AT&T Store in Warrenton to make ends meet. But after seeing an advertisement for a position with the Astoria Police Department, his passion for law enforcement was reignited and he decided to make a career change. He applied across the county and eventually received an offer from Cannon Beach. He is scheduled to attend the police academy June 10.
While going from acrobatics teacher to tech support worker to police officer definitely has caused some lifestyle whiplash, Anderson said skills from each have more crossover than one might expect.
“The knowledge of movement helps a ton in police work. There can be a lot of sitting around in a patrol vehicle,” he said. “But when something does happen, it happens fast, and you have to be able to move.”