Stevensville’s new police officer Kevin Oberhofer comes to the job with a good deal of experience. Police Chief James Marble, who has been handling the department by himself following two resignations, is happy that Oberhofer has the experience that he has. Training a new officer with no experience can take a lot more time and Marble is anxious to get that training done so he can move on to hire another officer and bring the department up to the same three-officer force that existed before the resignations.
Oberhofer’s parents were from Miles City but moved to Chicago where he was born. But the family returned to Montana regularly to visit relatives and Oberhofer loved the place and when the chance arose, he moved here to go to school. While attending the University of Montana, he also served as a Reserve Deputy. He graduated from UM in 1990. Then he graduated from the Montana Law Enforcement Academy and worked as a police officer in Helena for seven and a half years, serving on the Task Force and the SWAT team, among other duties.
He then moved to Arizona where he worked in law enforcement and the Department of Defense for nine years and also got his commercial pilot’s license and then worked for a time as a flight instructor. When 9/11 occurred, he decided to re-think his career. His mother was living in Missoula at the time and not doing well. Oberhofer and his wife decided to move to Montana and they bought a house in Stevensville to be near his mother. Since then he has worked for three years as a dispatcher at the Ravalli County 9-1-1 Call Center.
Oberhofer said that when he left his job in Helena, he thought he would never be a police officer again. He said he got to know Chief Marble through the work he did at the center and recognized that at this point in time Marble needed some help.
“It seemed like a nice thing to me, a natural fit,” he said.
Oberhofer said that one of the hugest parts of the decision to take the job is that his wife of 24 years agreed to go along with it. “She’s totally on board,” he said, “and that’s important.”
Marble said that Oberhofer, as part of his job, would take on duties as the School Resource Officer in the Stevensville School District. He said currently the deal with the school district is for a 50/50 share of the officer’s salary, and that the school district has agreed that he could work half-time for the school. But Marble said the actual hours would be monitored and if it turned out that it was more than half-time the deal would have to be re-negotiated.
Marble talked about the difference between a large police force for a major city and a job in a small community. In one case, you probably don’t know the public that you serve. But in a small town you get to know pretty much everybody and everybody knows you.
“In a small town, you don’t have any choice about getting to know your community or not,” he said.
For Oberhofer, that was one of the attractions.