PORT RICHEY — It's not always guns and glory. Sometimes, you put your work shoes on the streets and knock on some doors.
"It's like my father used to say: No one gives anything to you. You have to go out and get it," Pasco Sheriff's Detective Michael Rosa says.
That's the type of attitude and commitment that won Rosa the distinction of detective of the year, an award given to detectives who demonstrate consistency and top-level execution. They may not necessarily have investigated and solved the biggest case that year, but they show a certain reliability in everything they do.
On a recent too-hot weekday, Rosa, with his feet on the street, worked a fast-food robbery case.
The robbery seemed straightforward enough — at first. Then, he watched the surveillance video. Something was off. He explained: Robberies are frantic. They involve running and yelling. This one was calm; the manager on duty simply handed the suspect money.
It was an inside job, Rosa found out through his investigation. Today, he needed to track down some witnesses, get additional statements and ask them to attend an investigation meeting with the State Attorney's Office.
He pulled up to a house and knocked on the door. An elderly woman answered.
"Hello ma'am," he said. "How are you?" He introduced himself. "I'm sorry to bother you."
He asked to talk to Melissa Maida, a victim in the case.
"Did you catch him?" Maida said suddenly from inside.
"Yes," he said. She cheered.
• • •
Rosa, 36, works in a building with mirrored windows in a room surrounded by other detectives. He sits at a desk with a computer, much like any other office setting — but with guns. And death investigations.
"Our detectives are continuously stretched due to our heavy workload. Detective Rosa, like all of our detectives, rises up to the challenges because they know how critical their duties are to our mission of protecting our citizens," Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco said. "(He's) extremely positive and professional. When you hear Detective Rosa is on a case, you know it'll be thoroughly investigated."
Rosa always wanted to be a cop, he said, though he doesn't look like one. If you didn't see his sidearm you might mistake him for an elementary school teacher.
He moved to Pasco when he was 10 and graduated from River Ridge High School, where he met his wife. They have two young daughters. His father was a cop in Miami, before he was a mailman.
He went to Pasco-Hernando Community College and worked his way from jail guard to patrol deputy to detective. He started in the property crimes unit.
"I miss patrol sometimes," he said.
He's been a detective for eight years and spent the last four where he is now — in the major crimes unit.
He's pulled his firearm a few times, but never had to shoot it.
And yes, sometimes he gets scared.
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't," he commented.
He's known for his courteous demeanor, something he said comes from perspective. He tells his trainees, "you see people during the most trying and terrible times of their lives. It's important not to judge them."
"I treat them how I would want my family treated," he said. "I try not to judge. I'm there to get the facts."
• • •
After his interview with Maida, he needed to catch up with another witness, but he didn't have a current address. He made a call, but the man was reluctant to talk. He moved on.
His next stop was to visit a key witness in the case. Lately, he said, she'd been getting pressure not to speak to him anymore.
"It's a maintenance call," he said. "I want her to know I'm still willing to help her."
He pulled up to her residence, and they walk and talk.
He climbed back into his car satisfied that she's on board. Next was one final run at the reticent witness from earlier. In what was either a coincidence or the natural effect of a detective trying to track you down, the man called Rosa's phone. No, he will not help the case. No, he will not come to a meeting.
"Some people don't want to help law enforcement," he said after the conversation. "And that's okay."
Rosa drove back to his office and mulled over the future. This is his dream job, he said, but maybe, if he wants a change someday, being a supervisor wouldn't be so bad. He also recently went back to school, and he enjoys mentoring new detectives.
The future Rosa will be much the same as the present, he said. He'll work hard and he'll be respectful. He'll keep his feet on the pavement.