Bradenton police 'Hero' award winner believes in second chances

rdymond@bradenton.comOctober 28, 2013 

Bradenton Police Department Detective First Grade Michael Skoumal, center, recently received the Law Enforcement "2013 Heroes Among Us Award." Flanking Skoumal is Bradenton Deputy Chief Warren Merriman, left, and Bradenton Ward 2 Councilman Gene Brown. PROVIDED PHOTO

MANATEE -- Mike Skoumal's nickname at the Bradenton Police Department is "Mike."

Forget cute possibilities such as Ironman because he runs, swims and bikes in triathlons or Peyton because he is a former quarterback at Rich South High School in suburban Chicago or Popeye, the main character in movie, "The French Connection," who was also a narcotics detective.

The 45-year-old Skoumal wouldn't take kindly to a warm and fuzzy nickname and no one would dare give him one, said Skoumal's boss, Bradenton Police Narcotics Unit Commander Sgt. Sean Monahan.

"Just Mike," Monahan said Thursday. "Mike is very serious."

It's that seriousness about his job that led to a recent honor for Detective First Grade Skoumal, married father of three daughters, ages 17, 11 and 8.

Skoumal, at the Bradenton Police Department since 2000, has been named a recipient of the 2013 Law Enforcement "Heroes Among Us" Award.

The award honors men and women in the law enforcement community who exhibit the highest levels of integrity, loyalty, dedication and passion. It was presented Tuesday by the Manatee County Substance Abuse Coalition and the Manatee County Youth Commission at the Pittsburgh Pirate City facility.

"Heroes Among Us" also is part of the national Red Ribbon Campaign to honor the memory of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Enrique "KiKi" Camarena, who was killed in the line of duty on assignment in Mexico, Monahan said.

"Mike has an unparalleled work ethic and is very knowledgeable," Monahan said. "He has a knack for solving the big cases and loves what he does. When you combine all of that with experience, knowledge and passion, you have the recipe for a quality police officer. If I could clone him I would. If I had a bunch of him, that would be a good thing."

Like Camarena, Skoumal's aptitude for solving narcotics cases led him to be assigned to a DEA task force, Monahan added.

Skoumal works out of the Tampa DEA office, assisting narcotics investigations in Pasco, Hillsborough and other nearby counties, but mostly working cases in Manatee County.

Although his personal statistics for narcotics arrests are described by Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski as "truly extraordinary," his compassion for the criminals he works with on the streets really sets him apart, Radzilowski said.

"Detective Skoumal has been responsible for thousands of drug-related arrests and convictions," Radzilowski said. "But he has also been responsible for helping families impacted by substance abuse. He has steered numerous violators toward rehabilitation programs in lieu of incarceration."

Skoumal has personally gone to probation officers with documentation to place offenders in drug diversion programs, Radzilowski added.

"That's because everyone makes a mistake and everyone deserves a second chance," Skoumal said when asked why he doesn't just have a "lock-'em-up" attitude.

"Jail is not always the right answer," Skoumal said.

Skoumal doesn't care to talk much about his deeds, saying he's just doing his job. But the lifelong Chicago White Sox fan, whose dad was an engineer and mom a homemaker, said he's been blessed with determination, a love for hard work and a body that never lets him down. He's run several triathlons, trains six days a week outside running and biking and swims at the Lakewood Ranch Branch of the Manatee County YMCA.

"I think I love my job so much because it's different every day," Skoumal said. "I like the challenge of how to handle different situations. I like the people I work with. I'm assigned to the DEA in Tampa and there are 13 of us who work together. Some people like homicide or burglaries. I like narcotics."

Skoumal is passing along some of his traits to his daughters. His 11-year-old does triathlons and his 8-year-old is a gymnast at Southwest Florida Gym.

"I'm on them about their training," Skoumal said. "Other than that, they have me wrapped around their fingers."

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or via Twitter @ RichardDymond.

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