Maj. Michael Copeland began his law enforcement career before cellphones, the Internet and even cable television.
The Franklin County Sheriff’s department chief deputy, who is battling cancer, was honored Tuesday by the Franklin County Commission for 45 years of service as a county employee.
“We all owe Mike a huge debt of gratitude for his service to the county,” Franklin County Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer said. “We were truly blessed to have him.”
Before reading the official commission resolution, Griesheimer shared a personal anecdote about Copeland and Sheriff Gary Toelke when the pair were running against each other for sheriff in the late 1980s.
Mike won the Democratic primary and Gary won the Republican primary,” Griesheimer recalled. “They agreed whoever won would make the other man undersheriff. It was the cleanest political race I’ve ever seen. They even rode to campaign events together.”
Originally hired as a dispatcher in the communications division in 1971, Copeland became undersheriff, or second in command, in 1988.
Throughout Copeland’s career he has been assigned to every division of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office with the exception of the adult detention facility.
Copeland has also authored policies and procedures and oversaw the modernization and evolution of the sheriff’s department over the past 4 1/2 decades by bringing certified law enforcement training to Franklin County, This training was in cooperation with the Greater St. Louis Police Academy, and enabled Franklin County area police officers and deputies to receive 600 hours of accredited training before law enforcement training was even required in Missouri.
He was also the county’s first canine officer and a lead investigator on the major case squad and a death investigator, charter member of the Emergency Response Team (SWAT) and served as commander.
The first mobile crime scene unit was organized, equipped, and utilized under his direction. He graduated from the FBI National Academy in 1997.