Four join Rockford Post at once, a first
By BETH ALTENA
In recent years the state economy caused consolidation and closures of Michigan State Police posts across Michigan and the layoff of many of our law enforcement officers. As an indication of the success of such procedures or perhaps as Michigan’s economy begins recovery, the Rockford Michigan State Police Post introduced last week four new troopers—a first in the last twenty years. All four successfully completed the rigorous, military style 19-week training last month before placement in their jobs here.
Troopers Ryan Akers, 25; Ryan Pipe, 36; Parker Surbrook, 25; and Richard Birmingham, 22, all began their duties based out of the Rockford Post on Monday, October 22. The four new law enforcement officers were kind enough to spend some time with the Squire to introduce themselves to Rockford.
Ryan Akers said he grew up an “Air Force brat” who has lived all over the world. He was born in Japan and after Japan lived in California, Iceland, Germany, New Jersey, Italy, and Virginia. He joined the United States Marines in 2008 and is still in the Marine Reserves. All four of the troopers entered the military-style Michigan State Police training on June 10 of this year and graduated October 19. Akers said the hardest part of the training—known to be among the most difficult, comprehensive and grueling—was the water safety, specifically the water rescue scenario. “It pushed me to my limits,” he said.
Akers said he chose law enforcement because he didn’t think he would like a desk job. He also likes helping people. He is married and has a daughter, Elizabeth, age two.
Ryan Pipe is originally from Spring Lake, Michigan and formerly lived in Coldwater where he was a police officer for 11 years. He attended a regional police academy in Lansing in 2000 prior to his job as officer in Coldwater. He is married, has two children ages 11 and nine and he and his family plan to move to the Rockford area.
Ryan Pipe said his law enforcement experience gave him some advantage in the MSP training because he was already familiar with laws and law enforcement rules. His fellow troopers considered him their “go to guy” as they went through their training. “He was a mentor to some of us,” said Akers. He also said the water training was the most difficult part of the training. He said he has always been drawn to a career in law enforcement and would recommend the profession to the right type of person. Qualities that would suit an individual to the field include, in Pipe’s opinion, common sense, strength in beliefs, patience, dedication and integrity.
“A lot of baggage comes with this type of work, you have to be able to handle that,” he stated. “It’s tough.”
Parker Surbrook was born in Jackson, and went to middle school and high school in Potterville, Michigan. He has had a life-long admiration of the Michigan State Police. He explained that his family business was located right down the street from the Jackson Michigan State Police Post. He likes that it is a family organization, somewhat like his family business. “In the Michigan State Police you all train together, every trooper at every post have all had the same training, even the Lieutenant (Ft. Lt. Chris McIntyre, Post Commander),” he said. “You can appreciate that they made it through that training and we are all a family together, we are in-touch mentally.”
Parker said troopers in a training class together make life-long bonds, even though they go on to serve at different posts across the state. He said they see each other again at meetings, additional training, and “retread” the training they all take one year after being on the job. That training, unlike the 19-week training, is two weeks of additional certification.
Law enforcement, specifically with the Michigan State Police, was too strong a lure to keep Surbrook in the family business, started by his grandfather 48 years ago. The Beef Barn is a successful family venture which put Surbrook through college prior to his attendance at the Lansing MSP academy. He said his strong friendship with other Troopers was what ultimately decided on his present career. He said one of his best friends was a Trooper in the Lansing Post, who, ironically, is now on staff at the academy. Their friendship did not allow Surbrook any special accommodations, however.
Surbrook also counted the water safety and rescue as among the most difficult trials in training. He said the water certification includes submersion in ice-cold water so Troopers will know what that feels like and the effects of the cold water on a body. He said Troopers who go through the training in winter have to do their water rescue in a lake with the ice cut out for access to the water.
Surbrook is just engaged and has recently moved here to Rockford. He said he had never been to Rockford prior to his posting here. He said he appreciates the small-town feel of the community, which also has a huge school district. He said trainees no longer are given the option of being tazered as they used to because of safety concerns, but all do get pepper sprayed and experience tear gas. “It give us a real-life feel of what that is like,” he said. Like local police officers, MSP Troopers wear bullet proof vests everyday as part of their uniform. He said his fiancé is from Fowlerville where she is in special education.
Richard Birmingham is from metro Detroit, specifically Wixom Michigan in southwest Oakland County. He said he wanted to be in law enforcement since he was a kid. He went to a regional academy prior to his training with the Michigan State Police. Of the training, especially compared to the regional training for law enforcement, Birmingham said, “I knew it was going to be hard, but I had no idea how hard.”
Birmingham said he was most impressed with the professionalism of the training and staff. “The level of professionalism is huge. They yell at you, but they do it with respect.” The other three Troopers noted that Birmingham was by far the fastest runner of the entire class. Parker said, “He ran like someone stole something.” Birmingham has a girlfriend, Urszula. He is a resident of Walker who said he finds Rockford very appealing.
One of the reasons four troopers from the most recent academy all landed in Rockford is because of closure of other posts to the public. Birmingham said technically they are also Grand Haven Troopers who will respond to Grand Haven calls. Different posts divide duties with their local law enforcement, and here the Troopers who cover this area are primarily road patrol, and in the City of Rockford, Rockford Police and Public Safety respond to calls for aid while outside of the city, Kent County Sheriff Department deputies respond to calls for aid.
Ryan Akers explained this restructuring of MSP Troopers and their duty stations is part of what is called the Reorganizational Plan designed to save money and allow Troopers to better serve the public. Because of in-vehicle computers, which can even print out forms from in the car, troopers don’t have to return to their post for such paperwork duties.
“If we are out there parked and filling out our forms, we are still visible to the public and available,” he stated.
Parker said the restructuring is show more presence and be closer to calls, rather than far away and in a building somewhere.
Birmingham said he also was challenged by the water rescue and safety, but pointed out that constant testing throughout the training was a challenge and lots of pressure. “If you didn’t pass, you have one more chance to get it right, and if you don’t that’s it, you’re done,” he said. He said testing took place each Thursday throughout the entire 19 weeks and all Troopers have to pass every single test. “It could be week 19 and if you didn’t pass you were done,” he said.
To appreciate the quality of professional of these three men to our law enforcement, consider the long odds to even be considered for the position. Of this class of 2012, over 3,000 individuals took the civil service test required for the initial screening. Of those, 1,000 made it through to be considered for interviews prior to acceptance into the training academy. Of those 1,000, only 92 were accepted into the academy. In the class from which Akers, Pipe, Surbrook and Birmingham graduated, of the 92 accepted, only 78 went on to complete the training and graduate. That is a very elite group indeed. Welcome to Rockford.