Mike Coppage

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William Michael Coppage (born 1948; died January 1, 2021) was the Director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety, Chief of Police for the Birmingham Police Department, and an Irondale City Councilor.

From 1970 to 1974 Coppage was a military police officer and criminal investigator for the U.S. Army. After his discharge he joined the Birmingham Police as a patrol officer. He rose through the ranks as an evidence technician, instructor, patrol supervisor, homicide and robbery detective, S.W.A.T commander, and assistant to the deputy chief of support services. He took command of the East Precinct as its captain in 1995. Having promised to shake up the department if crime did not drop by at least 15 percent in 1997, Mayor Richard Arrington Jr promoted Coppage to succeed Johnnie Johnson Jr as chief in 1998.

Coppage had a good relationship with his officers. He succeeded in reporting double-digit reductions in Birmingham's overall crime rate for his first two years. The rate held steady after that, reaching a 15-year low in 2001. Coppage resigned his position on February 7, 2003 in order to accept the directorship of the State's Department of Public Safety.

As a member of Bob Riley's cabinet, Coppage spent much of his time lobbying the legislature to fund expansion of the department and new equipment. He initiated the training of numerous troopers in federal immigration and customs enforcement, making his department only the second state police agency, after Florida's, to enforce federal immigration laws. He also oversaw the implementation of a new driver's license system.

In reviewing his term as head of the department, he said that, "My major accomplishment, without a doubt, has been to change the standard answer from ‘we’ve always done it that way’ to – hopefully – do it because it’s the right thing, it will benefit the people and it will benefit our employees."

Coppage resigned from the Department of Public Safety in November 2006. He returned to the Birmingham area for his retirement, residing in the city of Irondale. On February 7, 2008, the Irondale City Council appointed Coppage to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Mike Moers in District 7. In the city's August 2008 municipal elections the number of Council districts was reduced to five, and Coppage did not run for office.

In July 2009 Coppage was hired as director of public safety and emergency management at Samford University, succeeding Bobby Breed, who retired. He retired from the position in February 2012.

Coppage holds an associate's degree in law enforcement from Jefferson State Community College and a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and a master's in public administration (1990) from UAB. He has also completed programs for government executives at Harvard University and for executives at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

Preceded by:
Johnnie Johnson, Jr
Birmingham Chief of Police
1998 - 2003
Succeeded by:
Annetta Nunn
Preceded by:
Director, Alabama Dept. of Public Safety
2003 - 2006
Succeeded by:
Chris Murphy


  • Alonso-Zaldivar, Ricardo (November 11, 2003) "Police May Join Hunt for Illegal Migrants." The Los Angeles Times
  • Debro, Anita (February 7, 2008) "Mike Coppage chosen to fill vacant Irondale council seat." The Birmingham News
  • MacDonald, Ginny (November 14, 2006) "Director of DPS Coppage to retire." The Birmingham News
  • "Coppage named Samford public safety chief." (July 26, 2009) The Birmingham News
  • Robinson, Carol (January 1, 2021) "‘He was a mentor, great leader’: Veteran lawman ‘Mike’ Coppage dies after battle with COVID-19." The Birmingham News