Universal Orlando Resort stopped an Ormond Beach man from going into the parks for nearly an hour earlier this month because he wore a shirt that said he is a retired police officer.
Vincent Champion, a 22-year law enforcement veteran who retired in 2009 from the Ormond Beach Police Department, said he was stopped the theme park temporarily restricted his entry on the 1st November, 2019.
The 55-year-old said the experience left him confused and angry. Champion vowed he’d never to go to Universal again. “I have never been treated this badly,” he said. “It’s usually quite the opposite.”
Pictures that Champion shared show him in a grey, long-sleeved shirt with “Retired Police Officer” on the chest. On the back, it reads, “My time in uniform us is over but my watch never ends.”
Universal officials say guests might have confused him with an actual police officer. Even so, Champion was let into the park after the delay. Universal Orlando Resort spokesman Tom Schroder offered the following in a statement:
“We have tremendous respect for our law enforcement and first-responder guests and ultimately, this guest was able to wear his shirt. That said, for safety reasons, we want our guests and team members to be able to easily identify active, working, law enforcement. So, as is common in our industry, we do not permit guests to wear clothing or items that may cause confusion.”
The incident was first reported on the Blue Lives Matter blog on the Defense Maven website.
Champion was at Universal Studios Florida after friends said they wanted to meet up with him and his girlfriend for Halloween Horror Nights. As he was emptying his pockets to walk through security, an attendant asked if he had a different shirt to put on.
At first, Champion said he did not and was told he could not enter the park with anything with police-related materials on it. As a line formed, bystanders started to defend Champion, with 1 bystander offering up his shirt for Champion to wear.
He quickly changed into it but was told that it wasn’t enough for the security guard, who Champion said told him that he couldn’t carry the first shirt around.
“I was embarrassed because I’m proud of what I am,” Champion said. “But I had to disrobe in front of people. I was trying to just defuse the situation and not have a problem.”
Champion said he often gets stopped by strangers when he wears the shirt to thank him for his time as a police officer. He eventually asked to speak to supervisor, who repeated the attendant’s explanation about the company’s policy. But they relented when they saw there was no official badge on the shirt.