Ex-cop, priesthood student sees both sides

Idaho StatesmanJune 15, 2013 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article originally ran on Feb. 21, 1999.

Pierce Murphy once put people in jail. Then he trained to save souls.

Now a Boise Cascade Corp. human resources manager, he is a candidate for Boise's police ombudsman.

In his 20s, he worked as a police officer in California and studied to be a priest.

Murphy said all his vocations reflect his desire to serve and to help people grow.

"The ombudsman job is about service," he said. "The other aspect of the job is centered around helping individuals who are in conflict with each other - or groups - to find a way to work effectively to resolve their differences."

Murphy hardly comes across as a Catbert, the evil human resources director in "Dilbert."

"Call me Pierce," he said, introducing himself. In an interview in Boise Cascade's fourth-floor cafeteria, he wore a green sweater, in the company's business-casual dress style.

A Boise Cascade employee since 1994, he leads employee and organizational development efforts in the Paper Division.

Murphy, 44, was born at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the military installation where his father was a Navy officer, and grew up mainly in the San Francisco Bay area.

There he worked police jobs over six years to pay for college. At first, he checked parking meters and vacationing residents' homes in Menlo Park.

He then served for five years - three full time - as a reserve officer for Menlo Park and the nearby Atherton Police Department.

He drove a patrol car, made arrests, and served as a liaison between the police and prosecutors in what he calls a fairly routine experience with no gunplay.

Murphy's police experience could affect a decision on whether to hire him. Kristi McKown, who was picked last September, resigned after the disclosure that she had applied for a job as a Boise police officer.

Murphy said he didn't think his police work would affect his impartiality.

"That was 20 years ago," he said. "I've had a great deal of education and experience since then."

He said police work gave him an understanding of police officers' jobs and investigative techniques the ombudsman will need.

After graduating from Santa Clara University and working as a financial analyst for a semiconductor company, Murphy entered studies for the Catholic priesthood in the Jesuit order.

"I had a call to the ministry," he said.

He served a two years' apprenticeship in Santa Barbara, working in a soup kitchen and a legal aid office.

Murphy spent two more years studying philosophy at Gonzaga University, before leaving the Jesuits and continuing at the university for a master's degree in counseling psychology in 1984.

"I realized that I wasn't called to the priesthood," he said.

Since then, the father of seven has worked for a series of corporations across the country in human resources, the latest, Boise Cascade.

He's on the boards of the Rotary Club of Boise and Junior Achievement of Idaho.

Murphy said he had no specific proposals for the structure of the ombudsman's job.

"It's about having a way for citizens to express their concerns and having them resolved with due speed and fairness," he said.

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