Brophy turns in badge after 37-year law enforcement career

Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, January 3, 2019

Photo courtesy of Greg Noose

Cliff Brophy in his early days as a Stillwater County Sheriff's deputy.

Photo courtesy of Greg Noose

Noose (left) and Brophy (right) work with an ice suit.

Cliff Brophy had planned on serving his fellow man as a member of the clergy.

After attending a Bible Institute for a year and with his eyes set on becoming a minister, Brophy landed in the Park City/ Laurel area, working to save money while working as a mechanic.

It was then that his path crossed with then-Stillwater County Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Noose, who was launching the first deputy reserve program. Brophy quickly become involved with Search and Rescue and his attention quickly turned to a career in law enforcement. He was hired as the resident deputy in Absarokee in 1981.

This past Monday, Brophy ended a nearly 37-year law enforcement career, when he signed off on the radio for the last time — 32-1, off duty.

“Sheriff Brophy, congratulations on your retirement. We wish you the best and God speed,” Undersheriff Randy Smith read after Brophy checked out for the last time. An audio of the radio call can be heard on the News’ Facebook page.


Brophy was hired as a deputy in 1981. In seven years, he became the top cop in the county when he was appointed as sheriff (and then first elected) to the position in 1990, according to county records. Brophy was re-elected to the post a total of six times.

In addition to being responsible for all deputies, reserve deputies and civilian staff members, Brophy’s job duties also included managing day-to-day investigations, evidence management, civil process, court transport and court security, dispatch, search and rescue operations and coroner duties for the entire county.

Due to the fact that Stillwater County has relatively few deputies in comparison to the miles it covers, Brophy’s duties have included routine deputy work.

The positions the now-retired lawman held on local, state and national organizations is impressive — the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division Advisory Policy Board, the Montana Board of Crime Control, past president of the Montana Sheriff and Peace Officers’ Association, past president of the Montana Coroners’ Association, the Montana Lottery Commission, the Montana Emergency Response Commission, as well as several local groups.

Brophy has also been a guest instructor at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy in Helena.


Noose, who preceded Brophy as sheriff, recently said that he considers bringing Brophy to the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office “my greatest contribution to the office.”

The former lawman described his protégé as “a thorough and patient investigator” who handled many complex death and coroner investigations.

“He disarmed people without unnecessary force. One time in Park City, taking a baseball bat from an enraged, intoxicated domestic violence offender,” recalled Noose. “His skills later paid off during the double homicide investigation that took place in 1990.”

Noose, who left Stillwater County to become the administrator of the Montana Law Enforcement Academy, also said Brophy was a mainstay during a mission to recover bodies and wreckage of an airplane crash on the north face of Granite in 1988, which was a complicated air and ground rescue mission.

“I like to remember getting called out early one Sunday morning to back up the newly-hired Cliff Brophy at the Absarokee Rodeo Grounds. After a hard night of celebrating, two juveniles had been driving recklessly at dawn, and they ran over the fairgrounds’ popcorn machine. They fled on foot, barricaded themselves in a two-hole outhouse, and Cliff couldn’t get them out,” recalled Noose.

Brophy also volunteered to take at-risk children on wilderness ventures.

“Cliff is a level-headed man of integrity and bravery – a loyal partner and friend,” said Noose.


A father of two now-grown daughters, the affable and easy-going Brophy reflected on what has been the most difficult aspect of spending more than three decades in law enforcement.

Watching people deal with the aftermath of tragic events and the negative affect that the trauma can cause is heartbreaking, said Brophy.

“Whether it’s the family that’s trying to deal with a tragic loss or the first responder that witnessed a horrific scene, it tears at your very soul to watch people suffer,” said Brophy.

His favorite part of the job has been working with people to solve the challenges in the various communities.

“Those challenges can be disasters, emergency preparedness, crime, addictions that lead to crime or social disorder, and technological changes that impact people in negative ways. Those same technological changes can also help us to serve the public in a more efficient way,” said Brophy.