Roy Hernandez-Cotter: The Recruit


City Pages' People Issue celebrates men and women who make Minnesota a better place to live.

Roy Hernandez-Cotter sees the suspect flee out a door, knife in hand, and has a split-second decision. Help his fallen partner or give chase?

He runs out the door, radioing for a medic to help his wounded colleague. Gun drawn, Hernandez-Cotter sprints up to and around a corner — where the man with the knife is waiting and leaps at him.

Hernandez–Cotter is fine, uninjured except for his ego. This was a simulation, a test. He has failed.

He’s not a cop. He’s a bartender. Soon he’ll be both.

For the past two years, Hernandez-Cotter has spent his days getting a law enforcement degree from Minneapolis Community and Technical College, and his nights serving sake and sushi at Kyatchi in south Minneapolis.

Hernandez-Cotter previously considered working as an audio engineer and a train conductor, attending school for both. He also had a brief stint stocking shelves overnight with Target — “the most depressing job.” Now he’s behind Kyatchi’s bar five nights a week, a proficient one-man crew, hands firing like pistons as they grab and shuttle glasses, plates, checks, menus, all while remaining a vision of calm as he thanks customers who say they enjoyed their meal and their time with him.

“I don’t know a lot of other people in their daily lives get that genuine appreciation,” Hernandez-Cotter says, “and you can have it multiple times in a night.”

Here’s who really doesn’t get that: cops.

Since he started studying law enforcement, Hernanez-Cotter has heard numerous friends — “people I like,” he says — make wisecracks about how soon he’ll be beating up suspects and shooting unarmed black people. It’s a line of joking he doesn’t let get off the ground. Not if they expect to remain friends.

At 34, Hernandez-Cotter was considerably older than most of his classmates in the MCTC course. Some of the younger guys were “hot-heads” or talked shit about others behind their backs.

“I felt I had more patience than some,” he says.

Said patience has lately been used to explain his career choice to his parents. Neither side of the family has a law enforcement history: His mom’s an accountant, his father a Mexican immigrant who came north with nothing and spent decades working for Medtronic.

“My dad has a real aversion to the existence of firearms, which I completely understand,” Hernandez-Cotter says.

Some friends are more appreciative, telling him they’ve had bad experiences with cops before. They think his peaceful demeanor and thoughtful approach would be a welcome fit for a police uniform. They hope he can help change people’s perceptions.

That’s a lot of pressure. At stake is much more than how much he’ll get in tips.

Says Hernandez-Cotter: “That’s OK. I’ll take it.”

Click here to see other entries in this year's City Pages People Issue.