State Police officer: ‘Would jump in again’

Courtesy Photo Sgt. Rich Tucker, left, appears at the Michigan State Police-Alpena Post last month with his brother-in-law, Trooper Steve Boyer, and Tucker’s son, Cody Tucker in this photo provided by Rich Tucker. Boyer holds a photo of Rich Tucker’s father-in-law, Sam Boyer.

ALPENA — Today, Sgt. Rich Tucker of the Michigan State Police-Alpena Post is in Lansing, handing in his badge.

After 29 years with the Michigan State Police, Tucker ends his career on Friday with a small celebration at the post, marking three decades of watching over his community.

Tucker remembers, as a boy, gazing in awe when troopers in their blue uniforms visited his Hubbard Lake community.

When police came, “You knew there was something important going on,” he said at the post on Tuesday.

Now, with only a day left in his career, he carries pride mingled with concern as his son sets out on his own adventure as an MSP trooper.

News Photo by Julie Riddle Sgt. Rich Tucker works at his computer at the Michigan State Police-Alpena Post on Tuesday.

The years ahead of his son won’t all be easy, Tucker knows.

In his 18 years of service at the Alpena post — having graduated from the police academy in 1993 and moved to the Alpena post in 2004 — the officer has seen the community change, and policing change along with it.

A far cry from the Alpena of the past — where Lud’s was the only fast food restaurant in town and the junior high school was downtown, when the recently-repaired Bagley Street bridge hadn’t yet been built — Alpena bustles with business, and its roads get busier every year, Tucker said.

Despite the busyness of the city, Alpena crime of today isn’t that different from the crime when he started at the post. Two decades ago, the city coped with sex crimes, assaults, and drunk drivers — and it still does, he said.

Now, though, technology advances surround police with tools to do their work more efficiently — tools, like the body cameras the Alpena post will receive today, that also take away officers’ discretion to handle situations in the way they think best.

“It feels like you’ve got the whole world behind you, watching,” Tucker said. That scrutiny may make officers act by the book, but, “Not all situations are cut and dried,” he said.

Years ago, when an officer in uniform testified in court, “Your word was golden,” he said.

Now, juries demand proof that police aren’t lying, a change he attributes to the actions of “a few bad apples” whose actions shed distrust on all police officers.

His father-in-law — Sam Boyer, a trooper with the Alpena post in the 1970s to the 1990s — pushed Tucker to think carefully before committing to the difficult and dangerous career.

Tucker’s brother-in-law, Steve Boyer, also serves as a trooper for the Michigan State Police.

Watching his own son don a police uniform, half of him is proud his eldest wanted to follow in his footsteps, Tucker said, “and half of me is scared to death.”

Always be vigilant, he exhorts his son. As an officer, days of nothing can pass, “and then, with the flip of the switch, you’re in the heat of battle.”

Officers know they could, at any moment, encounter someone shooting at them, someone attacking them, knowing they have to defend themselves and also protect anyone around them.

Sidelined from the street by health issues, Tucker has manned the desk at the Alpena post since 2017, years he called the toughest in his career.

Regularly, he said, people come in with problems that have taken months or years to develop and expect him to fix them in 15 minutes.

Police can’t referee civil disputes or solve custody battles, he has to tell them, often sending them away thinking he doesn’t want to help them.

Whether patrolling roads, responding to complaints, or listening to angry residents, police work requires enormous self-restraint that gets used up on the job.

“When you get home, your patience is on ‘E,'” and families sometimes bear the brunt of officers’ tough days, Tucker said, calling his wife, Lori, a saint for enduring life as a police spouse for two-plus decades.

Tough job or no, the officer retires confident he did good work and believing service to the community outweighs any downsides of wearing a police badge.

“If I had to do it all over again, I would definitely jump in,” Tucker said. “With both feet.”

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693 or jriddle@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jriddleX.


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