Native Americans In The MSP; How Their Background Prepared Them To Become Troopers

SAULT STE. MARIE, MICH. The Michigan State Police (MSP) is proud to serve citizens of all different backgrounds. The Upper Peninsula is unique in that its home to a number of Native American tribal members. In total, Michigan has 12 federally acknowledged tribes. 

As the MSP continues to build a diverse department representative of the public it serves, MSP Recruiter Sgt. Ben Eckola spoke with two current members of the MSP who reflected on how their culture contributed to their decisions to serve their communities.

Lt. Steven Derusha, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, is a member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Lieutenant Derusha spoke about how his background prepared him for a career in the MSP, how being in the MSP has enabled him to give back to his fellow Sault Tribe members, and what advice he would offer to other tribal members who may be interested in the MSP. 

Lt. Steven Derusha

“I was born and raised in the Newberry area and I am proud to be a member of the Sault Tribe. Native Americans have a strong heritage of family, tradition, and respect for the natural world. Native Americans have lived in these lands surrounding the Great Lakes for many generations; long before the well-known explorers came here. 

I am proud to uphold this heritage and have raised my children with these values. Proud to continue tribal traditions.  Proud to uphold tribal values of helping our neighbors and treating people with compassion and respect. We are proud to be Sault Tribe members. 

The troopers who lived and worked in the Newberry area as I was growing up were very respected in the community.  They were professional and treated people with dignity and respect.  The impression that they made me want to be a trooper.

The values I was raised with directly related to being a Michigan State Police Trooper.  If you are a member of a Michigan Tribe, your tribal values and core beliefs are very likely in-line with MSP values and core beliefs.

Honesty, Integrity, Courtesy, Respect, Honor, Bravery.  This is what we seek in a Michigan State Police Trooper.  If you live your life in-line with your Tribal Code, you will find that these traits apply to you. 

I proudly uphold the MSP Value Statement of, “A PROUD tradition of SERVICE through EXCELLENCE, INTEGRITY, and COURTESY”.

This job is not for everyone, but people who are a lot like you step up and serve their communities as State Troopers.  You won’t get rich, but you will live a life rich in the experience of helping others.

I don’t think we could ever know the true extent of how a trooper’s actions have affected the Tribal Community.  Tribal Members are so woven in the fabric that makes up the community, I don’t see how we can do anything that does not affect Tribal Members.  We are them and they are us.  Our communities are so blended that every good thing a Trooper does benefits the community, and thereby the Tribe.

If you have had a voice inside yourself telling you that you would like to be an MSP Trooper, that you would like to proudly wear a Trooper uniform, help people, and hold people accountable for their actions; then you are just the person we’re looking for.”

Another proud member of the MSP is D/Sgt. Joseph LeBlanc who is assigned to the Sault Ste. Marie Post.  Detective Sergeant Leblanc is also a proud member of the member of the Bay Mills Indian Community. Detective Sergeant LeBlanc spoke about how his background prepared him to become a trooper and what it has meant to him being able to serve his community. 

D/Sgt. Joseph LeBlanc

“Being a Tribal member means I am a part of a larger community of people with a common background and history. It also means it is my duty to represent my family and community in a positive manner.  I want to add to the fabric of my culture and community by being a role model for all.

I decided to join the Michigan State Police because I wanted to expand my knowledge and experience of being a police officer.  I wanted to push myself to a higher accomplishment for myself and my community. My background helped prepare me to become a trooper. I was raised with a strong sense of family and core values.  I was always taught to respect the environment, elders, and the people around me.  I wanted to help my community and I wanted to challenge myself to be a part of a team which excels.  

I knew from past contacts with the state police that the troopers have always conducted themselves in a professional manner.  They were highly trained and equipped with the tools to get the job done.  I decided to challenge myself and become a trooper.

I quickly learned policing was not all about writing tickets or chasing after bad guys.  It was about solving problems which was best suited for the family and community. After I became a trooper, I continued to pursue additional training and experiences.  

The MSP has allowed me to receive new and exciting opportunities.  I have lived and worked in other communities, trained new recruits, taught defensive tactics, worked as a Field Training Officer, and investigated serious crimes.  

In addition to my daily duties serving the Soo area previously as a trooper and now as a detective sergeant, I have trained new troopers on the laws and customs of the Tribal community.  I have also worked as a liaison between the state and the tribal government. I enjoy living in my tribal community, which allows me to share my knowledge, experience, and training I have experienced with the MSP.  

I would advise tribal members who may be interested in a career which allows such great opportunities to make a difference in their communities to challenge themselves and step out of their comfort zone.  The choice of temporarily leaving the comforts of home and community can be a large step, but a necessary one to personally challenge yourself.” 

The Michigan State Police’s mission is to provide the highest quality law enforcement and public safety services throughout Michigan. It achieves its mission through its people- employees who distinguish themselves as leaders by their ability to earn respect, instill confidence, and strengthen morale by providing vision, accountability, and recognizing individual contributions and achievements. The MSP is thankful to both Lieutenant Derusha and Detective Sergeant LeBlanc for their service to their communities.

If these testimonials resonate with you and you are interested in becoming a trooper, please contact your local MSP post and ask to speak to a recruiter, or click here for more information. 

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This story was prepared by the staff at EUP News or contributed from an outside source.

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