Born in San Francisco, initially raised in the North Beach Projects, Mike McElroy graduated from San Mateo High School before enlisting in the United States Army. He trained as Military Police and began taking college courses while in the Service. After Honorable Discharge, Mike went on to earn a college degree and serve in the Oakland Police Department, the Alameda County Sheriff's Department (where he worked closely with Judges, Attorneys and Court Staff), and the Berkeley Police Department. Now retired, he has travelled extensively and works security for Apple Computer, and the Oakland - Alameda County Coliseum among others. I've known Mike for a long time, and have always enjoyed talking to him.
A transcript of this podcast is easily available.
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Mike McElroy - Podcast Interview Transcript
Louis Goodman: Today, we're doing something a little different we're going to talk to someone who is not a lawyer, Mike McElroy, he's a retired police officer. He has a lot to say.
Mike McElroy, welcome to Love thy Lawyer, it's great to have you. I'm so happy you're able to join us. You're not a lawyer, but you've. certainly had a lot of experience working with lawyers, both professionally and in your personal family life, is that correct?
Mike McElroy: Correct.
Louis Goodman: So you are a retired police officer, is that right?
Mike McElroy: Yes. 28 years of service.
Louis Goodman: And your first experience as a police officer was in the United States army?
Mike McElroy: That is correct. I joined the army when I was 17 in the delayed entry program and went in the army in November of 75.
Louis Goodman: Where are you from originally?
Mike McElroy: San Francisco, California raised in the, projects, public housing in North beach for the first few years of my life.
And, I went to high school in San Mateo
Louis Goodman: at San Mateo high school.
Mike McElroy: We have a few famous people that, went there. Merv Griffin, Kris Kristofferson, Dennis Haysbert, just to name a few I, who was the other, somebody Alicia Silverstone.
Louis Goodman: And after you got out of high school, you went to college.
I mean, to the army right away.
Mike McElroy: That is correct. I went to the United States army was honorably discharged. I went there from November 75 to 78. and I did a year of college.
Louis Goodman: Your, your primary job in the army was a military policeman. Is that correct?
Mike McElroy: That's correct. I was a correctional specialist, military police.
Louis Goodman: How did you get into, how did you get into that work in the army?
Mike McElroy: Well, Lou, here's what happened. I went down to the recruiting station. I was kind of one of these guys didn't know what he was going to do after high school, but I know I didn't want to go to the college of small minds. that's called San Mateo on the Hill.
Sure. I decided, Oh, I'll just be, I joined the army. It was the Vietnam war. Just ended, April of 75. So I said, let me join the army. And I went in there and, went to the recruiting office. I'll never forget it because the, the guy in the Navy was too nice. I mean, he was, you know, I didn't want to be on a ship.
The guy in the Marines was just, you know, too jaw jacked at me, you know? So, the air force, I wasn't into the planes, but the army guy was really nice. I mean, he was super nice. Anything to sign on the dotted line, turkeys, cookies, drink, soft drinks, whatever you want, you know, sit and listen to him. And then you take a GT test what's called and they come out and they tell you, you could, you could do anything you want to do here on this list here.
This is where you scored. And it said military police. And I said, well, I could do that. And he said, yeah, you could do that. Signed up for it.
Louis Goodman: What kind of work did you do as a military policeman?
Mike McElroy: I was a correctional specialist, so I worked in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas disciplinary barracks, did a number of duties in the prison.
Louis Goodman: Is that basically where you learned your police work
Mike McElroy: More or less? Well, you learn a lot about police work, but I also went through military police course at our Fort McClellan, Alabama, where that was interesting. You know, you just, you learn all the things about police and patrol work and, and, you know, taking the most direct route.
And, it's like a really. Crash course schoolwork. And then you also had a correction course too. So I went through both courses and it was a pretty interesting, he got out of the army, went into the Oakland police department. Well, first I, I went to school for a while and then I went to the Oakland police department. and then I went to the Sheriff's department. And then I ended up, retiring out of Berkeley after 15 years,
Louis Goodman: Do a little compare and contrast with Oakland Sheriff's department, Berkeley police. What were those experiences like?
Mike McElroy: All of them are completely different, completely different. Oakland had a different philosophy than Berkeley.
As far as police work is control as concerned. And then as, the Sheriff's department, a number of duties that you have. I did the jails and the court. And they had a little training patrol program out of Eden township station. But for the most part, it was the jail and the court. And, the duties are very different compared to the police department.
Louis Goodman: Tell me a little bit about the difference between Oakland and Berkeley police. Cause they're cities that are right next to each other.
Mike McElroy: Yeah. I, when I was in the Oakland department in 1980, so those were the, you know, eighties, you know, that was before all that. I mean, that was, before all that, what was that Riders thing?
I had never experienced any of that when I was working in Oakland, it was that kind of Riders crap. I was actually really surprised when I, that kind of, that kind of thing. So, I think that Oakland had just a different philosophy in those days. and then of course, Then when I, had to deal with in Berkeley, I think Oakland was a little more aggressive as far as, you know, the philosophy of policing.
And that was because of your clientele. For the most part during the eighties, Berkeley was different in a lot of ways, smaller department, bigger egos, but smaller department.
Louis Goodman: What did you, what did you like about doing police work?
Mike McElroy: I think I was kind of programmed for it.
and what I mean by program for it after, after this, service in the military, the three years in the military, basically you're 23 or 21 and 23, you're coming out. You need a job. I didn't look at it as a bad job and it wasn't a bad job and it's an easy thing to get into. For the most part.
Louis Goodman: So in some ways it was sort of a natural progression from the military into the police.
Mike McElroy: Right? Right. Exactly. It's, it's, it's, it comes kind of easy to you because the, all the police departments are paramilitary organizations, as you know, so, you know, the uniform, the keeping up with things and that kind of stuff, it's kind of easy to do.
And it's even easier to do when you run into a group that's never been into the military and there's a lot of people in California. in law enforcement that haven't never been into the military.
Louis Goodman: So would you recommend going to police work for a young person thinking about a career choice?
Mike McElroy: Yes. It's just would have to depend on the person and, you know, you grown to things and you know, if you sign up when you're 25, you're going to be a different guy at 35 anyways, and anything in life.
Louis Goodman: How, did police work? Meet your expectations if it did, or did it differ from your expectations?
Mike McElroy: Well, I'm retired now, so I have a pension and I'm happy, you know, that it's over with for the most part. so. It's met my expectation is as far as the benefits, after 20 years,
Louis Goodman: You have a lot of lawyers in your family.
Your brother's a lawyer. Your sister is a recently retired judge.
Mike McElroy: Yeah. Yeah. My brother and sister are both lawyers, so there's a lot of talk around the table.
Louis Goodman: And you were around the legal system and observed the legal system, as a bailiff in court. Do you, do you think the legal system was. fair to people in general or not fair. What was your sense of it?
Mike McElroy: You know, my time I worked at the Hayward municipal court for, I think it was about three years, three and a half years. The judges really care. The judges that I work for, they seem to really care, to really care.
Louis Goodman: You're a retired police officer.
You served in several different departments, had your whole career in police work. You're also an African American man. What's your take on what's going on these days here in the United States, if you'd be willing to comment on that? And I, and I, and I also want you to know that I don't expect you to, to represent all police officers or all African American people, but I just want to hear what Mike McElroy thinks because you're a guy I've talked to a lot and I have so much, respect and enjoyment for. The things that you say
Mike McElroy: it's, it's just me. It's just a personal opinion. Is it more or less? Right? My own personal page. Now, what was the question again?
Louis Goodman: Just what's your, what's your take on what's going on with the, with, with the way police agencies and black people and other people of color are relating to each other.
Now in the, in the wake of the, of the, recent events in Minneapolis, in Atlanta, where, where there's been, police shootings and people dying as a result of police shootings?
Mike McElroy: Yeah. Well, I think you have so many of them, that's the thing about it is, and I think the thing about it is if you didn't have the phones, I mean, if the problem with a lot of this stuff is if you did not have a phone and you didn't have a video people with the police report, imagine a whole different story. Take for instance, that Oscar Grant thing, there wasn't a video come on. The report would have read that this guy was bucking like a horse.
I couldn't control him. And you know, all this stuff and boom, when the report comes out and you have a video, you still can't believe it because the report is right. This isn't the same thing that I'm matching on video.
Louis Goodman: Traveled a lot in, your life. Tell us a little about some of the places you've been.
Mike McElroy: I try to go as many places as possible. I like Latin America. I've been to Asia and Tokyo and Osaka on Kong type a and I lived on the Island of Saipan,
Louis Goodman: How did that happen?
Mike McElroy: My dad was director of Peace Corps. Micronesia. It's very interesting, but so my dad was director of peace Corps in Micronesia out there, in the Micronesian islands from '67 to '70.
Louis Goodman: And you lived there,
Mike McElroy: Lived on an Island called an Island Truk. Truk islands for a couple months. No electricity biggest house on the islands, infested with termites. It had an ice box that, ran on kerosene. So everything that came out of it tastes like kerosene. Cold showers and mosquitoes.
That's what I remember about Truk. And then we moved up to Saipan for the rest of the tour, which was like two and a half years on the Island of a Saipan in the Mariana islands. 140 miles North of Guam
Louis Goodman: What's your experience with lawyers been like,
Mike McElroy: Good, actually good. They're very necessary and if you get it, if you get it to a lawyer who knows what he's doing.
Damn. You really hit pay dirt. No matter what your case may be.
Louis Goodman: If you were not a police officer, what other job do you think would interest you?
Mike McElroy: Being an auctioneer? You know,
Louis Goodman: Auctioning things?
Mike McElroy: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Something like that. You know, something I could do that, but, and I, I don't mind security, that kind of thing.
Louis Goodman: Security is, you know, police work, right?
Mike McElroy: Yeah, yeah. Kind of, kind of, but, but security it's all you do actually is observe. You know, it's like that. it's like that's the commercial, the guy in the bank. Now, when the guy comes in and robs and everybody's on the ground, just get on the ground and observe, you know, you don't have to do anything foolish.
That's what they tell you. You're doing security anyways.
Louis Goodman: Foolish.
Mike McElroy: Yeah, call nine one one and call nine one one and observe and try to remember what you saw and, and, and they don't want you to do any, they don't want you to do anything.
Louis Goodman: Say you had a magic wand, you could kind of wave it over the legal system, the police system, the world.
What if there was one thing that, that you could change? What, what do you think that would be?
Mike McElroy: It would be the treatment of mentally ill people.
Louis Goodman: Can you be more specific?
Mike McElroy: More specific. There's a lot of people who are obviously mentally ill and of course, that's, you know, one's man's judgment, but there are some things that are quite obvious.
Louis Goodman: And then they end up being treated as criminals,
Mike McElroy: Just, just up being too criminal, going around in a circle and, and the whole 10 yards instead of having true treatment. And that's the same with people in confinement. You know, they get in there. Most of these guys, you know, other than the guys like Madoff, you know, that guy who did all that swindling and stuff, right?
Yeah. You're you could probably work with some young people. Some people are just criminally minded, you know, and there's nothing too much you can do about that. But if you could get to some of these people, when they're young, it would be really helpful. And of course, Straight poverty is always a, a loser.
Louis Goodman: If you had a couple billion dollars came into it somehow, what, if anything, in your own life, would you change
Mike McElroy: Health care and schooling? Free healthcare, especially healthcare, healthcare and, and schooling up to four years of college free. Anyone who wants to go anyone?
Louis Goodman: So you would like to set up a, like a scholarship so people can go to school,
Mike McElroy: Well assist a system of public school system, or, or that works for everyone and everyone, you know, we all know Lou, if the schools in Dublin are different than the schools in Oakland, you wonder why. I mean, you wonder why, and there's a lot of kids.
There's a lot of kids with the really, really smart and articulate that just can't, you know, geez can't afford it. Can't afford it. Can't navigate the systems in getting a higher education higher than even than a than four years of college. But that should be free for everyone, everyone, and anyone
Louis Goodman: To go through four years of college?
Mike McElroy: Four years of college, please free free.
And breakfast when you go there in the morning,
Louis Goodman: Mike McElroy, thank you so much for joining us on love thy lawyer. It was really a pleasure to talk to you. I always enjoy talking to you whether recording or not. And I want to thank you for all your comments today.
Mike McElroy: Well, it's been my pleasure, Lou. I really appreciate it.
And, yeah, I get sick of talking to my brother and sister.
Louis Goodman: Thanks for joining us today on love thy lawyer.