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Envisioning engaged community partnering with law enforcement

Since Minot State University launched North Dakota's first criminal justice program in fall 1975, its graduates have continued the university's long tradition of service by protecting the citizens of the state and beyond. The oil boom and bust brought unprecedented challenges for law enforcement personnel.

Mike McGrath, deputy chief of the U.S. Probation Office in North Dakota, earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Minot State in 1998. He continued on through the joint partnership that MSU formed with the University of North Dakota to receive his doctorate in 2014.

McGrath holds fond memories of attending MSU. The CJ department had small classes, and he currently works professionally with former classmates.

"I had really good, knowledgeable teachers and at the time that I came into the program, it was one of the premier programs in the Midwest," McGrath remembers. "Dr. Gary Rabe, Rural Crime and Justice Center executive director, made the biggest impact of me. He gave me a chance to branch out. I worked at RCJC, and it gave me some applied learning. In addition, the people in the CJ Department were connected with law enforcement professionals and that was important with me becoming who I am. An adjunct professor was a former federal law federal probation officer, and it turned me onto the probation career option."

As deputy chief, McGrath handles the operational functions of the federal probation office and supervises 35 to 40 officers. The office is a growing agency because activity in the oil industry forced government entities to grow to meet the demand for services.

"I spent a large chunk of my career in the Minot office at the height of the boom," McGrath said. "In my perspective, it had a huge effect on all law enforcement, including federal cases. In fact, the federal government made it a point to assist with local law enforcement to ensure community safety."

As far as law enforcement in the future, McGrath envisions law enforcement officers engaging the community to be more participatory in law enforcement.

"Being a probation officer takes a special type of person," McGrath said. "Someone who really understands human nature, law, law enforcement, how to motivate people, and how to engage families and communities. It's a multi-disciplinary, demanding and dynamic job, and that's what attracted me to it.