Denise Brotherton '94, '20 MACJ pushes herself even further up the rungs of success with Mount Mercy

Denise Brotherton '94, '22 MACJDenise (Shaffer) Brotherton ’94, ’20 MACJ

After completing her undergraduate degree at Mount Mercy, Denise Brotherton ’94, ’20 MACJ came back to the Hill to complete her master’s degree.

MMU: Tell me a little about your journey to Mount Mercy. What drew you to Mount Mercy as an undergrad? How did you know the criminal justice program was right for you?

DB: I started at Kirkwood and worked multiple jobs to pay for school. I had taken some criminal justice electives at Kirkwood and was encouraged by instructors to continue on to my BA. Mount Mercy was the most supportive in providing financial incentives and variety of studies, along with the ability to remain in Cedar Rapids.

MMU: Tell me about your journey after graduating with your bachelor’s from MMU. Where has your career taken you?

DB: I was fortunate to be hired by the Iowa City Police Department as an officer the year following graduation. The ICPD has a tradition of placing a high value on training and professionalism. I was able to train and work in several areas, from crime scene technician to defensive tactics instructor. Because I had my BA I was able to pursue promotional opportunities and eventually achieved the rank of captain.

MMU: You were the first female captain at the ICPD—how did you get to that point in your career?

DB: Other police departments in Iowa have female captains and chiefs, but the ICPD never had a woman go beyond the rank of sergeant. The women I work with are as capable as me to achieve this position, but it’s difficult on family life to move through the ranks due to schedule changes and work demands. The direction of the department is important to me, and it was worth sacrifices to pursue leadership positions.

MMU: What’s your favorite part about your job? Most challenging?

DB: I enjoy having a “seat at the table” and a voice in the direction of the department. I have a supportive chief, who respects my opinion and holds my same values as to how we should serve our community and our staff. The most challenging part of my job is the stress of not wanting to let down the department and effectively responding to the needs of the community.

MMU: What made you decide to come back for your MACJ? What about the program appealed to you?

DB: My current chief and my husband encouraged me to pursue my master’s for further career advancement. After checking out other programs, I was impressed that Dr. Humphrey personally reached out to me to discuss the program. She has been extremely helpful and supportive during the enrollment process and as I have juggled coursework with career and family demands.

MMU: Is there any one moment or memory that stands out to you from your time as an MMU grad student?

DB: I’m still in the trenches of the program, and each time I complete a course I cannot believe I was able to get it all done. Not so sure about this current research and stats class!

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