When C.C. Edwards was still a Denver cop he responded to a nasty domestic violence call. The offender was a father and husband who had lost control, and when Edwards showed up he became the focus of this man’s rage. Things didn’t calm down until the man’s son rushed out and yelled, “Stop! He’s my D.A.R.E. officer!”
“The dad dropped,” Edwards remembers.
As a presence in middle schools around the metro area, Edwards felt that he was “fully involved” with the community he was sworn to serve, an investment that paid off time and time again. But he says those programs have disappeared. As a result, his post-retirement career as a boxing coach for the Denver Police Brotherhood has become all the more crucial.
Nearly every day of the week you’ll find people punching bags and skipping rope in what used to be an old church at Bannock Street and Evans Avenue. This is the headquarters of the Denver Police Brotherhood, a longtime club for cops who’ve been boxing as long as they’ve been associated. They’ve been training Denver’s youth in the ring since 1986.
According to C.C. Edwards — ask him what his initials stand for and he’ll tell you “Cute and Cuddly” — the Brotherhood’s youth program is the last remnant of community integration that used to be commonplace when he was working in schools. The trust that came with it, he said, is “gone.”
“There has been too many things that’s happened between police and civilians” in recent years, Edwards said.
But the officers feel they’re still able to make an impact here.
“It breaks down a lot of barriers,” said District 3 officer Jim Lopez, who wandered into the gym still wearing his uniform. “This allows them to see me in a completely different light.”
Edwards says the benefits for young people go beyond police relations. Boxing teaches young people how to be disciplined, to multitask and to listen, he says.
And he’s proven he knows what he’s doing. In 2015 Edwards took three of his pupils to the state’s Olympic qualifiers. They each won bronze medals, one place short to compete for a spot in Rio.
Two of these top fighters are the Vasquez brothers, Eddie (23) and Jesus (25). They’ve been training together under the Police Brotherhood for more than 10 years, and both seem to have picked up lessons here that extend far beyond the ring.
“You learn the meaning of what hard work is. Determination, sacrifice,” said the younger Vasquez.
While Eddie could very well rise in the sport, he is much more focused on school, where he says these traits have helped him succeed. Soon to graduate from Arapahoe Community College, he hopes to work on a masters in finance at the University of Denver.
But the boxing gym hasn’t just helped him develop the right mindset for school, it’s also given him a $500-per-semester scholarship to help him buy books.
Jesus, on the other hand, is singularly focused on going pro. He might have waited until the next Olympics trials (only amateurs can compete there), but he’s ready now.
“Whatever you do, I got your back,” Coach Edwards tells him.
That connection between athlete and coach has transformed the way the Brotherhood’s pupils see police officers. Just as he did as a school D.A.R.E. officer, Edwards has been able to establish personal relationships with Denver’s youth here in the gym.
“These guys are our friends,” Jesus said, “They’re like our role models.”
The Vasquez brothers, under Edwards’ leadership, will compete in the Colorado Golden Gloves tournament at the end of the month.