After 38 Years on the Job, Officer Says 'Over and Out'
Patrolman Mike Koloda was quartermaster, detective, worked road patrol
When Patrolman Mike Koloda leaves work this afternoon, it will be with a lump in his throat and 38 years worth of memories.
Koloda, the longest-serving officer in the Strongsville Police Department, puts in his last shift today, ending a career that spanned nearly four decades and included two stints on road patrol, 10 years in the detective bureau and a 13-year assignment as the department's quartermaster, handling all supplies, purchasing and managing the fleet of vehicles.
"I really enjoyed every aspect of it," Koloda said.
Well, other than motorcycle patrol. Koloda tried that for a year, thinking it would be fun.
"It's 90 degrees and you're sweating. The sun is hot, the motorcycle is hot," Koloda recalled with a laugh. "It just wasn't for me."
But the rest of the work was, according to Police Chief Charles Goss.
"You can't find a nicer person or a better officer than Mike," said Goss, who, with 33 years on the force, will now be the department's senior officer.
Most memorable experience on the job? It reaches back to Koloda's rookie year, when a bank alarm sounded at National City on Royalton Road. Nearly every bank alarm is false, but Koloda hopped in the car with Ralph Graves, who would go on to become Strongsville's police chief, and rode to the scene not expecting much excitement. When they arrived, he saw people with their hands in the air.
He was getting out of the car, loading his shotgun, when he heard "boom boom."
"I look around and Ralph's shooting," he said.
One bank robber fell, while the other ran around the building. Koloda yelled to an officer stationed on Fallingwater that the guy was coming then heard a shot.
It turned out the robbers were brothers -- one died and one survived his wounds -- who had recently escaped from a prison. Strongsville police foiled their plan to take the money and flee home to Chicago.
The nature of crime hasn't changed that much in the last three decades, Koloda said. "We've always had assaults, break-ins. You just get more of it now," he said. "People are people."
Back in the day, when Strongsville was a rural community, there were actually more armed robberies and 200 to 300 home burglaries a year, Goss noted.
"You could rob the Lawson's store, make two turns and you're gone," he said.
Looking back, Koloda, who worked in the lab at Sherwin-Williams before realizing he didn't like being inside all day and took the police test, marvels at how he and his colleagues operated before today's technological advances.
"You wonder how we got anything accomplished," he said.
"You got a nightstick, a blackjack and a flashlight," Goss agreed.
Koloda, a Vietnam veteran who used to run six miles every other day and is still a fitness buff, said he will spend his newfound free time with his wife of 46 years, Pam, making up for all the years police work took him away from home. They're planning a cruise, road trips to national parks and maybe a tour of other cities' stadiums to follow the Cleveland Indians.
No one ever thinks he'll stay in the same job for 38 years. But Koloda said police work was fun for him.
"You enjoy what you're doing," he shrugged. "It's probably why I've stayed so long."
He said he plans to take part of his uniform and hang it on the wall for his six grandchildren to see.
"They'll say, 'that's Grandpa's,'" he said. "'He was a police officer.'"