BY PAUL BICKLEY
In 1998, Brian Oliger was student teaching art in a Bachelor Middle School classroom. He’d come to Bloomington from Seymour, Indiana, to earn a degree in art education at Indiana University. But when he was a junior, Oliger became an IU Police Department cadet and then a part-time officer, and realized law enforcement was his true calling. Now, almost 20 years later, IUPD Sgt. Oliger’s career has come full circle. “I’m a teacher,” he says, “just not in a classroom.”
In the 21 years since he first joined the force, Oliger, 42, has been a patrolman and a shift commander. And though he still patrols and conducts investigations, he now spends much of his time training fellow IUPD officers and teaching campus groups about safety.
As an outreach officer, Oliger teaches elementary school students about encountering strangers and calling 911. He also teaches IU groups how to keep offices safe, walk home safely at night, and defend themselves. After the October shooting in Las Vegas, he spoke to a large group at IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs about run-hide-fight strategies when a shooter opens fire. “I like to think that I might be saving a life, or lives, down the road,” he says.
A former competitive cyclist, Oliger began training fellow officers in 1998, when he took over the bike-officer program. “Statewide departments come here for bike training,” he says of the program he still runs. He also takes courses at regional police academies and departments, then teaches the topics to officers in the IUPD. “I wanted to get drunk drivers off the streets, so I got extra training,” he says of one course. “Now I teach other officers how to recognize the clues.”
Oliger’s interest in figuring things out started early. While walking on his grandfather’s farm as a 6-year-old, Oliger found an arrowhead. “I wondered who made it and how it got there,” he says. The discovery fired his interest in archaeology and art, and led him to collect pre-Columbian pottery. And maybe, he adds, it had something to do with his decision to become a police officer. “I enjoy solving puzzles,” he says, “putting together the pieces of evidence and investigations.”
Oliger and his wife, Miala, a nurse practitioner, have two children—Gabe, 10, and Hannah, who is nearly 2. Gabe sometimes joins his dad on archaeologist-directed digs out West, where, in yet a different kind of classroom, Oliger teaches him about evidence of dinosaurs and early humans.