Featured Article – Surplus Today Interview with Sergeant Michael Sura
[Editor’s note. In keeping with this issue’s law enforcement theme, I had the pleasure to interview Sgt. Michael Sura of the Michigan State Police. I think you will find his stories to be very interesting and informative.]
ST: Could you tell us about your career path in law enforcement?
SMS: My education consists of study at Oakland Community College and Eastern Michigan University, achieving an Associate’s Degree. I began my career in 1994 in the Public Safety Department at University of Michigan. After that, I was hired as a full-time police officer. One of my duties was crowd management and security for University of Michigan football games [104,000+ fans!]. Following those positions, I was encouraged to apply as a Michigan State Trooper, which I did until 2013, when I was promoted to Sergeant. [Note: Michigan Troopers consider themselves ”paramilitary” and have rankings that begin with Recruit, Trooper, Sergeant, Lieutenant, First Lieutenant, Inspector, Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel]
I think I have known I wanted to be a police officer since I was four years old. My dad was the Post Commander at Houghton Lake, Michigan, so I got to go behind the scenes to see what it was really like. I used to hang out at the station, washing cars and just enjoying being a part of a wonderful group of people. Unlike me, Dad was required to move every two years, so we lived in various cities throughout Michigan. Dad retired in 1987. I am very grateful for being able to stay in the two counties I have worked for since 1994. Many times, troopers must move around quite a bit.
ST: What was the most rewarding thing that has happened to you in your career in law enforcement?
SMS: Being selected by my post commander to help the state of New Jersey in the recovery efforts caused by Hurricane Sandy. Michigan has a cooperative agreement with other states to support emergency recovery operations. I am proud to say Michigan is one of only two or three other states that is certified by FEMA Security to do damage assessment. I was touched by the outpouring of help from our counterparts in New Jersey who gave us so much support, providing us meals, lodging, and so on. The hurricane survivors were so grateful for our assistance in keeping order and preventing crimes. We also did damage assessment for four weeks, traveling to various affected areas.
ST: What do you see as the most challenging things law enforcement officers face today?
SMS: Staying trained in all the technology that is out here. We not only solve crimes physically, we also do so virtually to catch Internet criminals, such as identity thieves. There are so many scams and every day there are new ones. Also, we use technology to educate the public to be on guard for all the scams that are out there. It is important to stay up to date with the ever-changing technology. For example, we have onboard laptops and cameras in patrol cars. Officers can type reports into a secure system.
ST: If you could change society in any way, what would it be?
SMS: I think society is in a good spot, but the most important thing I see is to not sensationalize drugs or violence in the media. Children today are overwhelmed by negative messages: video games, the news, commercials and other forms of media. These harmful messages are accepted as an acceptable way of doing things. In real life, people do not get up after the movie is finished. They die, game over! We need to reinforce this reality to our children.
ST: What advice would you give to people considering a career in law enforcement?
SMS: They need to know law enforcement is not an easycareer field. It is not just a job. It really is a career. Troopers are expected to be on call 24/7 and represent themselves admirably. Even if you are off duty, you are on duty. Law enforcement officers need to model and also be role models of law-abiding behavior. I try to always be professional and polite. I believe law enforcement representatives should constantly give back to their community. All my neighbors know I am a state police officer and I try to give a helping hand whenever I can. Other advice would be to simply stay out of trouble. No drinking, drugs, etc. In order to qualify to be in law enforcement, a person has to have a background check, where we interview their acquaintances to see if the person meets our rigid requirements. Finally, future candidates need to know that the actions they do today have an effect on their future.
ST: What improvements would you like to see happen to make society better?
SMS: I would like to see Improvement in how we teach our kids and what we teach them. They say “it takes a community to raise a child.” Teach them to be respectful, be productive and raise them to be responsible citizens. I would teach them to care for one another; that they are not adversaries.
ST: What is one of the strangest experiences you have had in law enforcement?
SMS: I had only been on the road two years and many of the more seasoned officers did not talk to us much. Trooper Smith [name changed] was even quieter; he never said anything to me. One day he came up to me and said: “Are you seeing anybody?” I made a couple of jokes and he just shrugged. The next day he said: “My wife wants you to ask out her sister.” I was so dumbfounded I did not answer. Again, he walked away. A few days later, my superior at the post calls me on the radio and tells me to get back to the post immediately. Well, I got very nervous and wondered if I had done something wrong. When I got there, the superior told me: “Trooper Smith wants you to meet his wife at Joe’s Bar. Puzzled, I went, and there she was with the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. After that, I knew I was in love and married her. She is still the beautiful girl I first saw in that bar.
ST: Any final thoughts?
SMS: As a community, I see a lot of good things and good people. It is nice to know that everybody wants to do their best. As a law enforcement officer, I want to provide my best service for them. In Michigan, there is a great cooperation between agencies. Friction between agencies does not happen. We work together to fight crime and enforce the laws of our state. We strive to do our best and work hard for those good people.
[Editor’s note. We would like to offer a special thanks to Sgt. Michael Sura for taking the time to address our questions and share with us the insight, experience, and knowledge of a Michigan State Trooper and law enforcement professional.]