The Elizabeth Police Department welcomed its newest officer on Feb. 13. Mike McDaniel, 49, is now a patrol officer with the EPD.
McDaniel is an Elizabeth native, now living in Colorado Springs. He is married with six children, and comes to EPD with 17 years of experience under his belt.
On March 7, McDaniel sat down with the Elbert County News for an interview at the Elizabeth police station, sharing stories of his policing experiences, career goals and personal interests.
Talk a bit about who you are and why you chose to work for the Elizabeth Police Department.
I was born and raised in Elizabeth. I went to school here back when the elementary school was still K-6 and high school was 7-12. I lived here through my sophomore year and moved to Englewood for my junior year of high school.
Growing up out here as a kid, I thought it was awesome. We would get real winters. We used to jump off our back porch into these big ol’ 10-foot snow drifts. It was great. It was mostly dirt roads. Since we left, I think I’d been back to Elizabeth once, just driving through.
I started policing in 2005 with the Denver Police Department. I was with the Denver Police Department until 2014 and then started with the Woodland Park Police Department where I was for seven years before coming to Elizabeth.
I thought, you know, it would be kind of cool to put in my last 15 years and retire in the little town that I grew up in, going full circle.
What is something you like about the EPD so far?
What I’ve noticed here that I didn’t see in Woodland is that everyone seems to be really tight here. Like, family level tight. If you have to go out and take care of business, you go do that. When you come back here, people joke around and you can relax.
What have your first few weeks looked like with the EPD?
The first week or so, you’re in civilian clothes and you ride shotgun with the sergeant. He’s been doing all the driving, pointing things out. This is my first week in uniform. Even though this is my third police department, I have 17 years of experience, I’m going through the FTO (Field Training Officer) Program again. Officers going through the FTO program learn all about the policies, the routes, the ticketing process, what the boundaries are, what paperwork needs to be filed. It is very different from place to place. Elizabeth does a lot of paperwork, more than I’m used to. It sounds overwhelming, but it is very good for checks and balances and keeping thorough records. I have four to six more weeks of the FTO process.
Do you think the change to a new PD at nearly 50 years old is worth it?
I think so. The feeling I get from Elizabeth compared to where I was at Woodland and Denver, this feels like it’s going to be more “family.” When you are leaving home, regardless of your commute time, and you know you’re going to place filled with what feels like your second family. It’s not a bad deal.
Elizabeth is very different from when you were growing up. It has seen a lot of growth and will continue to grow for decades to come. How do you feel, as a new officer, coming into a town that is rapidly changing?
I am probably 50/50 with the people on Facebook when it comes to my thoughts on the development in the area. When I came back here after decades of being away, I was shocked to see the number of houses that have gone up. When I was here it was mostly farmers and dirt roads and huge plots of land. The way Colorado is growing though, it is impossible to stop it from coming to Elizabeth. There are so many people. You can’t stop it. It’s a losing battle, I think. It’s hard to see the old Elizabeth change.
With growth, however, it can bring exciting new things and good changes, like new restaurants, businesses, things a lot of people will use. Soon you won’t have to drive 30 minutes to Castle Rock to get a Big Mac. Of course, with more people, traffic will increase, crime may increase, but I think growth will help a lot of Elizabeth. The growth will help the fire department hire more people, for example. Growth will notably help the police department because with more officers, you start having the ability to have better cover. Growth has its ups and downs.
What expertise do you bring to the EPD and the Town of Elizabeth?
I did nine years in Denver, giving me a lot of experience with an urban, higher crime area. When I was working there, I dealt with gang violence, shootings and homicides. The domestics, the crime, drugs, amount of calls you go on and how big they are, and how many people a call can take, all of that helped me learn. I’m glad to have experienced that, but not something I would want to go back to. Having that background and knowledge is something I can bring to the department. Young kids who are just out of the academy or have never worked a big call, the expertise I have can be helpful.
Because of your experience, do you feel that you will act as an unofficial mentor for the younger, less experienced officers?
I would love to act as a mentor for some of the officers here. If one of the younger kids wanted to come in and pick my mind, I would absolutely welcome that. It’s neat. At the same time, I’m going to be picking these guy’s minds because they know how things work here, how to do the paperwork. Some of these new kids who are coming straight out of the academy, they’ll be bringing in new information that I don’t know, but they can also benefit from being around someone who has 17 years of experience. I think it will be a give-and-take relationship.
What are your goals for your future at the EPD?
All officers have a shelf life of how long they want to be on the street. Some want to stay longer than others. A year after I moved to Woodland PD, I began serving as a detective. It took me close to two years to really get it down. I really loved doing detective work. I think in the next few years, with the growth of the town and some of the calls that we get, the EPD might see a position like that open up. Right now, investigations take officers off the streets to do follow-up. This wouldn’t be as necessary with an investigation-focused position. My ideal would be to work that position if it is created. I enjoy it so much.
Outside of policing, what do you do in your off time?
I love to barbecue. I have a flat grill and a smoker, and I love smoking ribs. It is so fun, especially in the summer. Have people over, pop a couple of beers, grilling and smoking burgers or pork chops. It can be so relaxing. My daughters are also really into BTS and Korean pop music. I got really into it with them and now we go to Korean pop concerts together. I went to California with my daughters back in 2019 to see BTS and it was so awesome. I am now a big BTS fan. I think learning about Korean pop and Korean and East Asian culture, it has opened my eyes a lot to other culture groups and how they do things.