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Sheriff's investigator balances the roles of mother and cop

Brandie Hart balances the difficult roles of motherhood and a St. Croix County sheriff's investigator and will add to her family this year. Photo by Jon Echternacht

The role of mother as solely homemaker has changed over the last few decades and working mothers represent a majority in American households.

Women now routinely seek to balance the coinciding demands of the workforce and raising children.

Investigator Brandie Hart of the St. Croix County Sheriff's Department has been able to balance the two obligations since the birth of her son five and one-half years ago and is about to add another number to the equation.

Hart, 37, is expecting her second child in late summer. "We're keeping her name under wraps until the birth," she said.

She has served in the department for 14 and one-half years and her current position as investigator gives her some latitude to raise children.

However, her case load deals with sexual abuse and includes children, which creates some emotional challenges. "Sometimes I interview children my son's age," she said.

Hart said she can't show emotion during these interviews. "That makes it difficult to go home and show emotion to my become an emotional mom. It's a challenge."

She admitted to sometimes having the urge to encase her son in bubble wrap to protect him from the evils of the world.

Hart's father died at age 39 when she was 11 and the family unit is very special to her. "The death of a parent is difficult and I really wanted my son to have a sibling," she said.

She also pointed out that her son is the only grandchild in either side of the family.

While her work can be dangerous -- she carries a gun on the job and people have been known to shoot at law officers in situations -- she is typically not a first responder.

"When I was a patrol deputy, I worked afternoons and during the summer and the concerts in Somerset, it was busy. I liked being in the forefront then," she said. But she was younger and single and didn't think much about danger.

Now, with one child and one due, the danger part admittedly crosses her mind and she is more cautious and defers to the perils of life in general.

"Not only my job is dangerous, but also just going to school can be," Hart said in reference to recent tragedies in the nation.

Hart started life in Eveleth on the Minnesota Iron Range then moved to River Falls in seventh grade after her father died. She graduated from River Falls High School in 1994 and earned a bachelor's degree from UW-La Crosse in psychology and sociology in 1998.

Hart said she was studying for finals at the student center her senior year when a professor told her there was a detective from the La Crosse Police Department on campus and urged her to check it out.

"After a talk with the detective, I said, 'I might want to be a cop.'"

Policing might be in her blood. Her grandfather and great uncle were on the Las Vegas Metro Police force.

The late Sheriff Paul Burch worked it out for the county to sponsor the hours she needed at Chippewa Valley Technical College for a law enforcement degree and she graduated in 1998. "I started part-time two weeks after Paul died," Hart said.

She was hired full-time at the jail in December 1998 and became the third woman hired as a patrol deputy in 2002. When an investigator's job opened, she went for it.

"I've been fortunate in my career progress," she said, "and I've had the support of management. My co-workers have always been great. The other investigators all have kids and there is a wide range of family and understanding among them."

In the meantime, Hart plans to work as long as she can before the new arrival. "If I feel good, I'll work to the last minute," she said.