|Ever have dreams of being famous? Or avoid social media like the plague? Here are the days of being instafamous and everyone knows nothing is real unless it’s Facebook Official. For better or for worse, the Internet can make you famous from a single viral photo or video.
Back in June 2014, you could not miss the “Hot Felon” mugshot that was plastered online and all over television. Within a few weeks, a new face surfaced: pictures of a San Francisco police officer working in the famed Castro District who would eventually become known around the world as the “Hot Cop of Castro.”
It has been nearly a year since he became the “Hot Cop of Castro” but there is no mistaking that Officer Chris Kohrs still has a dedicated fan base that continues to support him. Even with all of the new-found fame and following, the seven year veteran of the SFPD has remained just as dedicated to serving his city and community.
With the seemingly never ending bad publicity that law enforcement has endured in recent years, it was interesting to talk with Officer Kohrs and get his take on different aspects of the life of a police officer these days.
HalfKorean.com was able to discuss Chris’s personal background, law enforcement and his take on being the “Hot Cop of Castro.”
Please note that HalfKorean.com comments/questions are in BOLD.
Background: The Basics on Officer Chris Kohrs
What is your mix?
Half Korean and half German/English.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in September 1977 in Korea. We grew up in Belmont, California which is south of San Mateo.
How did your parents meet?
My dad was working in the military and was stationed in Korea. I think he was working for Army intelligence but am not sure exactly.
Do you speak Korean?
Zero. All I know is the food.
Favorite Korean food?
Oh, kalbi! I love kimchi.
Growing up, what was your “mixed Korean” experience like?
I really enjoyed it and thought it was great as I had the best of both worlds. We could go hamburger or go kalbi any day of the week we wanted. My mom makes great Korean food. Especially when traveling to say somewhere like Hawaii, we would feel like locals pretty much with the whole hapa look. I just liked it.
I didn’t really experience anything negative. Where we grew up was really white in Minnesota and we also spent a little bit of time in Ohio too.
What do people think your ethnicity is?
They think I’m either Italian or sometimes Spanish. Some type of European. The hapas I meet are so far and few between. Maybe one out of a hundred people I meet are hapa but they tend to pick it out quicker than other non-Asians who usually have no idea that I’m half Asian. My brother looks a little more Asian than I do but for me they never know. Unless they are Asian themselves they can kind of see it because my cheekbones are high. Hapas and Asians can tell more often than non-Asians.
Have you been back to Korea since leaving after you were born?
No and I have been dying to go back. I might try to go this summer actually. I’ve heard summertime is pretty good so I might head out there in August or September.
Are you planning to visit Korea by yourself or with family/friends?
I usually book my trips by myself and after I book my trip then I tell people that I’m going to Korea or wherever, and whomever wants to join in can. If I wait on other people then I’ll never book the trip.
Officer Chris Kohrs / Hot Cop of Castro
What were you doing before you decided to go into law enforcement?
I was purifying human growth hormone at Genentech. I was working in the BioTech industry.
What made you decide to leave that industry and become a cop?
Well, they were transferring my whole department to Singapore. I really didn’t want to move to Singapore as I enjoy living in San Francisco. I found my home here and love it here. I don’t really see myself leaving if I don’t have to. So, I told them I didn’t want to go. I decided to find a new job and I did.
Was going into law enforcement something you saw yourself doing when you were younger?
Absolutely not. I had no idea or ever talked about becoming a police officer. It just kind of happened. I had a friend who I was dating at the time who was in law enforcement. I ended up going with her to a law enforcement conference and at the conference I met some other guys that were in law enforcement and I thought these people were really cool and I could see myself hanging out with these guys outside of work. So, I started hanging out with them and next thing you know I started talking to them about their jobs, I applied, and never looked back.
Was the process to enter law enforcement difficult?
The background process is pretty thorough. They check your driving record and if you have any kind of criminal history or even speeding tickets. There is a lie detector test and a physical test, and they do blood work. It’s pretty intensive. So I’d say most people more times than not don’t pass one of those tests and don’t even make it into the academy. There is a lot of things they check.
What is your current position with SFPD?
I’m a police officer. I’m the guy who responds to 911 calls.
Have your parents and family been supportive of your law enforcement career?
At first they weren’t very happy. They thought it was a lot of unnecessary risk. They’ve gotten better with it now.
What is your take on the recent backlash that police force has gotten due to the various shootings that have happened recently?
As police officers a lot of what we do and how we are displayed depends on media. The media, news channels, Facebook and all this stuff is all a business and it’s all about grabbing as many viewers as possible. If a police officer does something positive, and they put that in the news, it might grab 1000 viewers. But, if they show something negative a police officer did, it might grab 100000 viewers. I can’t always blame the media when they put us in a negative light because it is a business. A lot of times all the good things we do – could be 10000 good things – and it’ll never get published. But, if we do one bad thing or make one mistake it then gets blasted all over the news.
I’m not condoning these mistakes. We are humans and we screw up just like everyone else. We have been hit pretty hard lately with a couple officers that have made some mistakes. A lot of good officers are taking a lot of heat for that right now. There are things that are being put into place because of that and the wheels have been turning. I believe body cameras are going to be administered to pretty much all SFPD officers in the near future as well as some other things. It’s not the easiest job and we do make mistakes. I’ll just leave it at that.
Have you personally experienced any negativity from just being a police officer?
Oh yeah, it happens quite a bit. I’ll be out in the street and random people will walk by holding their necks saying “I can’t breathe,” “Justice for Mike Brown” or “Don’t shoot me in the back. My hands are up.” It’s just ridiculous what people will say but I just keep walking and keep doing my job like I normally do.
What do you take pride in most from being a police officer?
The things I take pride in is that we do a lot of the jobs and things that nobody else wants to do. We are the ones out there arresting the robbers, child rapists, murderers. We are getting them off the streets and bringing them to justice. They are either going to jail and/or getting some mental help to set them straight and hopefully get them back on their feet and back into society. I take a little bit of pride in that.
What is the toughest or most stressful part?
There is a lot. We see a lot of things that are probably not meant to be seen by a lot of people everyday. When you see someone who is bleeding uncontrollably from a stab wound, gunshot, or car accident and you know they are probably not going to make it and you are alongside them rendering aid telling them everything is going to be fine and to keep breathing, when you know it is all going to be over in a few minutes. It’s tough to see them fade away. It’s tough to see kids that have been raped or molested and things like that. It’s not easy. Those are some of the toughest things.
Injuries are not as tough to deal with as those. I’ve had four operations from different injuries that I’ve sustained while working. That’s also part of the job. There is a risk every time you put on the uniform and go out on the street. You don’t know who has a gun, who has a knife and who is going to want to use that against you when you try to make an arrest. A lot of these criminals will do whatever it takes to escape arrest. As a police officer I guarantee you will end up in the hospital at least once in your career. It’s just part of the job.
What would you say is the most misunderstood thing about being a cop?
A lot of people just see us at taking action and what they don’t realize are the reasons behind the action. Maybe you don’t understand what I’m saying so let me give you an example. I remember arresting this homeless guy. He was on the street with no shirt and no shoes not harming anybody. I told him that he was under arrest. He wasn’t bothering anybody and was just standing on the sidewalk but I had to arrest him. A crowd formed and were yelling, “Why are you arresting him. He didn’t do anything wrong!” and this and that. People got all upset and started cussing at us saying, “Fuck the police!” What people don’t know is that three days prior, this guy had just sodomized a child. I can’t tell that to the public because it is private information and is none of their business. But, all that they see is us arresting this poor homeless guy. They have no idea what this guy did to get arrested and yet they are against us. That’s just one example of one of the difficult things a police officer has to deal with. You just have to kind of bite your tongue and just do what you know is right even if no else does.
There can be some neat perks for police officers such as working sporting events. What has been your experience working those type of events?
San Francisco Giants games are great because the worst thing I have to deal with at those games are drunks. It’s annoying but not nearly as bad as a bank robber or gang member. Plus, the Giants typically win their games so everyone is usually in a good mood. They also have a great crab sandwich up there by the Anchor Steam bar. I always sneak away for a few minutes every game and have one or two of those. It puts a big smile on my face. AT&T Park is probably the best stadium in the United States food-wise with the Gordon Biersch garlic fries, the crab sandwiches and it just goes on and on. The fans there are great too.
When I worked 49er games at Candlestick Park, there was a big difference between the fans at Candlestick and the fans at AT&T. The fans at AT&T seem to be better behaved and we appreciate that as officers. Working games are a great change of pace for me.
We have to ask this one. Do cops really like doughnuts?
Yeah, well here’s the thing. A lot of the time we do not have a lot of time to eat on our shift. We are running from 911 call to 911 call and one of the most annoying things is when right when you get your food at say a Mel’s Diner, right when it comes down, you get a priority robbery or shooting or something and you have to go. You have to leave your food there and that’s it and pretty much a done deal.
Let’s go to burritos. You are eating a burrito and driving with it, as it is very portable but at the same time when you are done eating the burrito if you look down at your crotch and it is full of bean juice, guacamole and sour cream. You just look like a slob.
So, with doughnuts, they are very manageable. They are fast and quick energy and you can literally eat them in 30 seconds. The doughnut shops love us because they are usually open 24-7 and around 2-3AM a lot of creeps go into these places and cause problems, so they love to see us there. It is not so much that we like doughnuts it’s more of the fact that they are convenient and a quick energy source and won’t get it all over our uniforms. Powdered sugar doughnuts are a different story as those will mess up your uniform. I don’t eat powdered sugar donuts while on duty. I usually stick to glazed, sprinkles or apple fritters. Those are the ones I usually get.
What are some of your career goals in law enforcement?
there are a couple things I really want to try. I want to try the Harley Davidson solos, which are the motorcycles. I want to try the K9 unit. After that, maybe try to promote and move up to Sergeant or something like that. Right now, I want to be on the street as much as possible. The thing is the more you promote, the more you supervise. I’m still learning this job and do not feel ready to supervise yet. I enjoy responding to 911 calls and would still like to keep doing that for now. I might try out for the specialist team in the future as well.
Are those specific units you mention something you have to request to join?
So with the Harley Davidsons, it’s seniority based, then you have to pass a motorcycle riding test. If you pass that you are pretty much in. With the spec test, you have to pass a physical test, a shooting test, an interview and scenario test. If you pass all that, then you might be accepted on the team. The dogs (K9) are more seniority based. You put your name in a hat and when people retire they keep picking names until finally your name is picked. That usually takes 15 years, so I have about 10 more years to go if I decide to take the K9 unit. So that’s how that works.
Do you plan to stay with SFPD long term?
As of now, that is my plans. I have no desire to switch or change career paths right now. I love San Francisco and I don’t see myself ever leaving for anything else.
So how did you become the “Hot Cop of the Castro?”
I was just working overtime in the Castro District and people started taking pictures of me working and then those pictures went viral on the Internet. After they went viral, a couple reporters talked to me and then when their articles went viral then I just became viral.
Obviously this became sort of a response to the viral mugshot of “Hot Felon” Jeremy Meeks from a few weeks prior. What has been your take on him?
I think he is a great looking guy but I think he would be better looking in a color other than orange. The whole fact that he is a felon; you have to realize he went to prison for a reason. People may look at his picture and say this guy is good looking and this and that but he is still a felon. I wish the guy all the success in the world and I hope he gets out and gets his life together. I hope he is very successful because then that would be one less person we would have to worry about. I wish the guy all the best. He should go into a modeling career. I think he signed a porn contract with somebody so I hope he is very successful in that career. Anything that gets his mind and activities off of criminal stuff, that makes me happy. I wish him all the success in the world.
How did your fellow SFPD colleagues react when you went viral?
They were giving me a hard time about it since day one. They were calling me the “rainbow maker” or the “Hot Cock of the Castro.” It was in a good way and they were being very supportive but they were going to give me some shit about it as well. It was a lot of teasing, a lot of harassment, but all in good fun. The SFPOA (San Francisco Police Officers Association) even had me do an ice bucket challenge last August in the Castro and that was nuts.
Did it ever become a distraction at all?
Well everything was going pretty good until the news cameras and vans started following me around from call to call. That’s when things can get a little crazy with officer safety because if I’m going to go to a dangerous call and I have news vans following me around, I don’t want them to get hurt. Anything can happen on these calls and the last thing I would want is some innocent reporter to get hurt. Once it started getting to that level, it started to get a little out of hand.
Was there anything you could do to prevent the news reporters from following?
No, there is nothing we can do. They run their show at their own risk. So, I could tell them to please not go to a call because it is a dangerous one but they don’t have to listen and can just go anyway. The chips fall as they may and whatever happens, happens. It would be on them.
How were you able to balance the sudden fame and notoriety with your personal life?
My personal life didn’t change too much. There were times when I would leave my house and I would just put on a hat and sunglasses, things of that nature, as there would be people outside wanting to talk, take a picture or get an autograph. In a way, you knew everyone was watching every move I made so I made sure I wasn’t doing anything inappropriate at any time. I drove very carefully, never peeled out. Just little minor stuff that kind of changed. I never got overly drunk and said inappropriate things like before this thing came out. Because everyone was watching.
Do people notice you when you are out in public?
I would go to bars and hang out with friends in a public place and there would always be someone that recognized me. I have been lucky as it has always been a positive experience. I’ve never had someone say that I’m some asshole, blah blah blah. I got lucky with that.
What did your parents think of it?
They don’t really watch too much TV and they’re not into social media or have Facebook or anything like that. But, when people approach them and say, “I saw your son on TV.” it has always been a positive thing. It puts a smile on their face and I think they like it.
Do you normally work in SF’s Castro District?
I’m usually in the Haight-Ashbury area. I was just working in the Castro because they were short and they needed people for road construction. I was in the Castro for a few days and that was when it all blew up.
We’ve seen that you’ve done some modeling work such as for your brother Nathan’s ChallengerxUSA sock line. Do you have an interest in modeling at all?
The stuff that I’ve done with this has always been through a special request. Like if its to help with a special charity or for a good cause, I’ll do it. Or if it is for a family member, I’m always down to help out my family. I did a calendar for Rocket Dog Rescue. I felt that was a good cause because it helps dogs that are about to be euthanized find homes. I’m a dog lover myself. With my brother’s sock line I’m obviously going to try to help him out with whatever he wants. I also did a photo shoot for Blade + Blue clothing. For that shoot, I had all the proceeds go to the Officer Down Memorial Fund. I didn’t want to get paid for any of these things and all of the money I received just went straight to charity. I don’t really see myself as a model and don’t really see myself doing it in the future except for special requests.
Any specific people that you look up to?
There are quite a few people I look up to for different reasons. Someone like a Chris Kyle (American Sniper) who served our country who went out there and did things that not a lot of people would want to do, but was necessary in order for us to live the lives we are living. It’s not just him, he’s the one who got memorialized and glorified but it goes out to all of our troops. Same way with me, I might be the guy out there that made the news and front paper but I’m just one officer out of many. Just because I was labeled the “Hot Cop,” the “hot cop” is really the person who delivers the best level of service to their community and in my opinion and that’s probably not me. Anyone who is out there putting their lives on the line whether it is the first responder or the soldiers, Navy Seals or whoever it is. Those are the ones I look up to.
We know you played collegiate football at the University of Miami (Ohio). When was that?
My freshman year was 1996-97. I played there in the late 1990s.
I’m sure lots of folks want to know what is your current relationship status?
Any final words to the mixed Korean community?
I think we should all get together and have a big party some time!
We want to thank Chris for spending his time with us for this interview and wish him much continued success in keeping the streets and community safe!
Make sure to follow Chris on his official Instagram and also his approved fan-operated Facebook.
Interview by: David Lee Sanders