As a University of Maine police officer, Jim Bergdoll is one of the many people in our community whose workday ends when most people are just waking up.
An insurance salesman by trade, Bergdoll began his journey of becoming an officer at 50 years old after a friend suggested he consider becoming a state trooper. After pursuing the idea, he discovered his calling in the police force.
Following his graduation from police academy, Bergdoll began working part-time at the Belfast Police Department. In August of 2014, he came to UMaine as an officer of the University of Maine Police Department (UMPD).
Bergdoll begins his average day around 11 a.m. by first spending time with his family. He then takes time to study scripture and meditate before leaving for work at 3:30 p.m. Bergdoll says his shift, which begins at 5 p.m. and ends at 3 a.m., can vary from quiet to chaotic depending on the night’s proximity to the weekend.
Bergdoll considers himself a foster brother with a badge. While some parts of his job involve monitoring traffic and other essential tasks, he says “community policing” is by far the most enjoyable part of his work. You can find him walking the residence halls, going to dining halls and having conversations with students all across campus during his shift.
“The really great part of this job is that I’m in a position where I get to watch people change,” Bergdoll said. “Often times, in a municipality, there is a good chance people won’t change. Here, I lost count a long time ago as to how many people I have seen grow and develop. Whether I helped them or not, I get to see that they aren’t just learning academia, they are learning about life. That’s truly a rewarding part of this job.”
A big aspect of his job includes working with resident assistants to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students.
“It’s so nice, the way we work together,” Bergdoll said. “I have seen them go above and beyond the call of duty to help someone out. I have a very positive relationship with all my RAs. I feel like I can talk to them, and I know they feel like they can talk to me. We are all there for the same reason: to remove stumbling blocks from a student’s education. They are here for a reason. Let’s help them manifest that goal.”
Reed Gordon, a fourth-year electrical engineering student met Officer Bergdoll two years ago through his experience as a resident assistant in the Somerset and Oxford Hall complex. He remembers Bergdoll walking through the residence halls, making sure students were safe and well behaved.
“I can speak from personal experience that he made sure he was always there for the residents when they needed him, both to keep them safe and … to listen when they needed to process what was going on in their lives,” Gordon said. “Officer Bergdoll was there for me when I needed him. He took the time to be there when I was in distress and needed someone to talk to … He has reminded me to ‘[breathe],’ take life one step at a time, and focus on the small things that make life beautiful.”
One of the many things that Bergdoll brings to campus through his work is an attention to the mental and emotional health of students. In addition to being willing to listen, he offers up alternative practices which help students manage their anxiety and stress.
Bergdoll finds peace in his own life by practicing the Russian martial art, Systema, which uses combat and breath work to relax tension in the body. In October, Bergdoll was featured, along with his instructor Daniel Colageo, in a WABI segment about Systema, discussing its benefits and sharing some techniques.
“I find that the role that I gravitate towards is the role of being out there, with the students,” Bergdoll said. “Trying to bridge that gap between ‘us and them.’ We are all us, and we are all working together. You guys are here working hard to get your degree, and I’m here working hard to make sure you can get that degree.”
While walking through the Memorial Union, Bergdoll is frequently stopped and greeted by students. It is obvious that he cares about the students of UMaine, and that care is reciprocated.
“My day always get[s] exponentially better when I see Officer Bergdoll,” Gordon said. “This is why Officer Bergdoll is an integral member of the UMaine ecosystem. We need more people like [him] who are there for us beyond the title of their job, who are there for us as people, and want us to succeed.”