Since he retired in January, Scott Brodie has gone back to school.
He left the University of Montana in 1990 as a business administration graduate, but has now returned 28 years later as one of the University of Montana Police Department's 15 sworn officers.
The campus police are no rent-a-cops. Brodie retired earlier this year after a 27-year career with the Missoula Police Department. About half the UM force is retired MPD or Missoula County deputy sheriffs.
"The police officers here are experienced," he said. "We know the job, and we want students here to have a successful student career. We'll hold people accountable when they try to interfere with that."
Of course, it's a lot less action than he saw at the city. The 58-year-old said he's enjoying the pace.
"Law enforcement is a young man's game," Brodie said. "The city can be a meat grinder. Here, we have time to give them help, more time to have a more cordial, human conversation, instead of going from call to call to call."
Brodie's career trajectory sounds like a familiar story to any UM graduate. He spent more than his fair share of time at Stockman's Bar, was a rabid fan of the Griz basketball team (the football program struggled before the dominant days of head coach Don Reed) and paid his way through college by working a side job at Grizzly Grocery.
"I never had a plan for a career," he said.
After graduation, Brodie said he signed up for any interview he could, just to get better at interviewing. That's how he found himself in the Missoula Police Department in 1990. It was less his business degree and more his background with the National Guard that helped him secure the job.
His law enforcement career blossomed from there. He retired as a patrol lieutenant, having worked as a patrol officer, narcotics detective, detective sergeant, a negotiator, tactical team commander and field training officer — not quite the application of a business administration degree he expected.
As new students have washed over campus for the fall semester, UMPD Chief Marty Ludemann said officers are spending time in dorms talking with students about what the police department offers in public safety, but also about watching out for each other.
"We talk a lot about taking care of each other, getting to know the people in your halls and on your floors," he said.
Officers also want students to know about the amnesty program, which grants students immunity from, for example, a minor in possession charge if they were drinking but need to report another underage person to authorities for something like alcohol poisoning or rape.
"Those are the things that we do on our campus that maybe the city police wouldn't have time to do," he said. "That's the good part of our job, to help educate, and we're part of the education package they get out here at the university."
Ludemann also recommends students let others know the whens and wheres if they go camping. Last year, he said, two students were trapped in a "freak snowstorm" headed to a hot springs site in the Bitterroot Valley. No one would have known they were missing if they hadn't told friends where they were going or when they would be back. Because they did, authorities went looking and found them before the worst case scenario happened.
The drop in enrollment at UM in recent years also has reduced calls for service, Ludemann said, but only slightly. University cops still respond to calls for domestic abuse, parties and drugs at the college's student housing units off campus. Those areas, as well as summer school, athletic events and speaker events on campus require continual public safety attention, he said.
"We definitely stay pretty busy all year round," he said.
Brodie said he's enjoyed the smaller actions in public safety, like working college football games, jumping a student's car or escorting students and others who are unfamiliar with the campus layout. And when a crime or violation of the student conduct code does take place, UMPD, in some instances in collaboration with city police, will step up for those duties, too.
"The officers, men and women, of our department are very dedicated to our safety and the safe learning environment on our campus," Ludemann said. "Out here, we have the ability to be a role model or be there for somebody, for more than just an arrest situation."