By Conrad Dudderar
46 years is finally enough for Mike Roach.
A lifelong Canadian County resident, Roach has decided to end a 46-year law enforcement career – once and for all. And he calls finishing at the Yukon Police Department “icing on the cake.”
Roach had first retired in 2017 but was later enticed to become Yukon’s deputy police chief – a position he has filled for nearly three years.
A former U.S. marshal, Roach is stepping down at the end of July after being with the YPD since August 2018. Armed with vast experience at larger agencies, his goal was to be an asset to both the community and department.
“I will miss all the people that I’ve worked with, who are still working,” Roach said. “I am going to miss being aware of what criminal activities are occurring and planning how we can eliminate those to keep our community safe.
“Yukon has an outstanding police department with some great people and incredibly good officers. I want the citizens to know how well respected this department is by other agencies.”
Roach would know, as proven by his wide-ranging background.
He began his law enforcement career in 1975 as one of the first four investigators in Oklahoma’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
Two years later, he joined the Oklahoma City Police Department as a patrol officer. Roach was captain of the department’s criminal intelligence unit In April 1995, contributing to the Murrah federal building bombing investigation.
Roach moved up the ranks to major during a 25-year career at OCPD, ultimately becoming commander of the Hefner Division.
He then received a career-changing call from U.S. Sen. Don Nickles (R-Oklahoma).
“He told me he had been given my name as a possible candidate for the United States marshal’s position,” Roach recalled. “After a lot of thought and prayer, I told him I would be interested.”
His decision to leave OCPD came with the blessing of then-Chief M.T. Berry, who encouraged him to seize the opportunity before him.
“Chief Berry told me nobody had ever left the Oklahoma City Police Department for a position like that,” Roach related. “He said, ‘It will do more for your career than anything’.”
Sen. Nickles endorsed Roach’s nomination to become the U.S. marshal for the Western District of Oklahoma in January 2001 when George W. Bush became the country’s 43rd president. The president nominates U.S. marshals and U.S. attorneys, who are approved by congressional committees in Washington, D.C.
The background and confirmation process took a full year before Roach took office in February 2002.
For nine years, Roach served as U.S. marshal for Oklahoma’s western district – which covers 40 of the state’s 77 counties.
“One of my greatest honors was to be the U.S. marshal under President George W. Bush,” he said. “What I liked about him was that he didn’t hold himself above anybody. He was very, very common and very down to earth – as was his wife (Laura). They were both very good people and very good to be around when I was marshal.”
Although Bush left the White House in January 2009, Roach’s term was extended until December 2010 under President Barack Obama.
The next chapter of Roach’s law enforcement career began immediately after the U.S. Marshal’s Service.
For the next seven years, he was director of the Central Oklahoma Metro Interdiction Team (COMIT) for the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s Office.
This three-agency task force, what also included Oklahoma City Police and the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office, focused on detecting and arresting “in-transmit criminals” traveling the highways in Oklahoma County.
TIME TO RETIRE?
In June 2017, Roach retired – for the first time. The interval away from law enforcement lasted until May 2018 when he received another unexpected call.
This one came from Yukon Police Chief John Corn and then-City Manager Jim Crosby, who asked if he would be interested in becoming YPD’s deputy chief.
“I went home, told my wife Phyllis about it, and she thought it was a great idea,” Roach related. “I did too. I had enjoyed being retired, but it was a huge adjustment.
“I didn’t come here simply because I knew John. From my history, I knew the Yukon Police Department was very well respected within the law enforcement community.”
Chief Corn and Roach were friends and knew each other well professionally when Corn offered him the deputy chief post.
“Having Mike here has really helped me,” Corn said. “I had five years without an assistant (chief); somebody not directly tied to the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) and not covered under collective bargaining.
“From the position of chief, it really helps administratively to have another person who is outside of that aspect of your workforce.”
Corn referred to Roach’s vast law enforcement background – working with municipal and federal agencies and a countywide task force.
“You can’t beat Mike’s experience,” Yukon’s police chief said. “It’s difficult to find someone who has done that much within the law enforcement community.”
Roach’s previous familiarity with Yukon Police allowed his smooth transition to deputy chief, Corn added.
When Roach was U.S. marshal for Oklahoma’s western district, the YPD had officers assigned to his office’s fugitive task force.
“We were one of the first agencies he contacted,” Corn related. “He really wanted to get the fugitive task force back up to the level of functionality and operation and asked if we’d be interested.
“We were able to maintain a part-time position. We had Lou Lavoie and Chris Cunningham serve in that position. Dave Carroll currently is a member of the task force under Marshal (Johnny) Kuhlman.”
REFLECTING ON ACCOMPLISHMENTS
As he prepares to retire as Yukon’s deputy chief, the 68-year-old Roach talked about what he is most proud of about his 46-year career.
“I’m particularly proud of my association with President Bush,” he said. “On four occasions, I was invited to and sat in the Oval Office with just him. It was always ‘Mike’. It wasn’t ‘marshal’.
“I spent a lot of time with President George W. Bush. I’ve had the privilege of meeting four presidents in person.”
The other presidents were Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush Sr.
While he was U.S. marshal, Roach in 2008 was selected to co-chair the agency’s implementation of the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act signed into law by President Bush.
The son of “America’s Most Wanted” creator and victims’ rights advocate John Walsh, six-year-old Adam was abducted as a child at a Florida shopping mall.
Among Roach’s other accomplishments was investigating a major PCP-cooking operation in Oklahoma during his four years serving on a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) task force.
Roach reflects with pride spending 46 years as a full-time law enforcement officer, saying he’s had the “most blessed career in the world”.
Roach is now ready to hang up his badge and gun, forever, to enjoy retirement with his family. And he has no regrets.
“As I look back from the first day I stepped in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, I’ve been so proud of what I’ve been able to do,” he said. “Even though there have been some tough times, there’s not one thing in my career I would change to this day.
“Yukon is a great place to end that career. This has been the best ‘icing on the cake’. And I’m not looking to go to work anywhere else.”