(STL.News) – On Friday, Montana’s law enforcement community will experience a changing of the guard when long-time Montana Department of Justice (DOJ) employee Jeff Douglass retires after 30 years of public service.
Jeff began his DOJ career in 1990 as a Montana Highway Patrol (MHP) trooper in Shelby. After eight years of service there, Jeff transferred to his hometown of Helena. Two years later, his career as a trooper was cut short when he medically retired from MHP following an injury.
“Just three days later, I went to work for the department’s Division of Criminal Investigation as the State DARE Coordinator,” Jeff recalled. “DCI then began to manage the Montana Law Enforcement Academy, and I was asked to instruct the driving program. At that point in time, we only had four practice cars; the program now has 80. MHP has always seen to it that we had the vehicles we needed. Once a trooper, always a trooper!” Jeff said, smiling.
Jeff, 68, credits a willingness to serve where needed and a life-long commitment to physical fitness as the cornerstones of his lengthy DOJ career. Soon after he began inviting students to work out with him twice a week, Jeff added another responsibility to his official duties at the Academy, which trains Montana’s state, county, city, and tribal officers. “One of Jeff’s most noteworthy accomplishments is bringing the Montana Physical Abilities Test to Montana,” notes Glen Stinar, MLEA Administrator. The MPAT is a hybrid physical ability/job physical abilities assessment process designed to evaluate law enforcement officer candidates on essential physical capacities required to satisfactorily perform job duties that are simulated or performed in the training environment. Successful MPAT completion is a pre-requisite to attending the Academy’s Law Enforcement Officer Basic Course. Stinar added, “Jeff has traveled across Montana several times per year for the last twelve years administering the MPAT, which is now the state standard for public safety physical fitness testing and is used by many agencies as part of their wellness programs.”
Jeff, whose official title is Manager of Police Vehicle Operations and MPAT Programs, says two of the biggest changes in law enforcement he’s seen over the last three decades is the younger generation’s increased desire to be physically fit, and that law enforcement is a more difficult profession now, given the country’s current climate. Several years ago, Jeff started a tradition of taking Law Enforcement Officer Basic Course students on a hike up Mount Helena each spring. When they reach the top, he reads Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” to them. The book is about a boy and a tree, and how the tree has to give more of itself as the boy grows to keep him happy. Jeff draws the analogy for students that a public safety career involves giving of yourself in order to serve others. “If you’re not a giver in this profession, you’re not going to have a good time doing it,” Jeff emphasizes. “In our oath, we pledge to help the downtrodden and uphold the Constitution. We may give up our lives for someone we don’t know because they’re in our custody. I always tell students that if they sincerely like people and want to help them, they’ll be good officers,” Jeff added.
Probably the only thing Jeff hasn’t done at MLEA over the last twenty years is get tased, and for good reason: In 2010, he suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm on Thanksgiving and underwent surgery at a Billings hospital the next day. Soon after, he visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, seeking treatment for another aneurysm, located behind his left eye. Unable to correct it without causing lasting damage, Mayo specialists gave Jeff the green light to continue his physically active lifestyle, with the exception of getting tased. Jeff, who gets regular MRIs to monitor his condition, says, “The doctors said it’s a miracle I lived and I still feel lucky to be alive. God’s got a bigger plan for me; He gets the credit. I know He worked in my life in a mighty way.”