Former Skyview football player takes officer’s oath

September 7, 2016 GMT

Billings Police Chief Rich St. John has an eye for talent that stretches from the gridiron to Billings’ thin blue line.

On Tuesday, St. John and Municipal Court Judge Sheila Kolar swore in nine new officers, including Casey Bigelow, 24, who played football for St. John at Skyview High School, where St. John works as defensive coordinator.

“He was always a role model for me. All the guys looked up to him,” Bigelow said of St. John, who coached the linebacker from 2007-10.

Bigelow played football at Rocky Mountain College. He earned a degree in criminal justice from Montana State University Billings.

“I always wanted to come back and do this. This is a dream come true for me.”

St. John said he’s first met a half-dozen or so Billings officers-to-be while coaching the Falcons.

Bigelow “had an excellent work ethic, and he was very respectful and very coachable,” St. John said of one of the newest officers. The fact that so many officers once played at Skyview “speaks volumes of the program Coach (Ron) Lebsock has in place. It’s founded in integrity. Players are humble in victory and gracious in defeat, and they learn how to be successful in life.”

Tuesday represented a homecoming for another new officer, Hunter Cook, who served seven years in the U.S. Army as a logistics officer before his childhood friend, Officer Daren Haider, helped convince his friend to consider joining the force.

“He’s going to be a great cop,” Haider said of a man he’s known well since they were fourth-graders. “The best thing about him is his willingness to serve.”

Cook, 29, said he’d go on ride-alongs with his friend while on leave from his army duties.

“I found out what it takes to do this job from him,” Cook said. “I grew up liking this profession, and when the opportunity arose to pursue this career, I jumped on it.”

According to St. John, two of the new officers — Bigelow and Dylan Sutton — have already earned Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) certification and are ready for their field training beginning Sept. 26. The other seven officers — Cook, Dustin Stroble, Brett Hilde, Kevin Rockwell, Jayden Romero, Seth Weston III and Kathy Brown — will begin their training at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy in Helena on Monday.

St. John said the nine new officers bring the number of sworn officers to 143, five below the authorized level.

“We are taking applications,” St. John said, “even as we speak.”