Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
BYU Police Capt. Mike Harroun, whose retirement will become official in April, works in his basement shop in Pleasant Grove. He says he's happy to have more time now to work on projects at home, such as kitchen cabinets that he is refinishing.

PROVO — A few days before his 50th birthday, Brigham Young University Police Capt. Michael Harroun was called to investigate what looked like a bomb in the Harold B. Lee Library.

Responding to one of the lower floors, he was told that a maintenance man working on the ceiling had found a black PVC pipe with both ends sealed.

The Provo bomb squad carefully removed and X-rayed the tube and then exploded it at a dump with a high-pressure water system. Inside was $10,000 cash.

"To the day I die, I will always wonder what the story was behind that," the now 62-year-old Harroun says, shaking his head.

That cash, which couldn't be tied to any cold or active case, sat in evidence for more than a decade before police gave it to the maintenance man who found it.

That case is probably the most mysterious Harroun has investigated during his 38 years as a police officer at Brigham Young University.

"I have no regrets about leaving there," he said of his unofficial leave in December, with official retirement coming in April. "It was a good experience, but it's good to have it behind me."

Now, the retired captain is focusing on all the projects that have piled up around his Pleasant Grove home.

During a recent interview with the Deseret Morning News, he pointed out the kitchen cabinets he is refinishing and showed off his immaculately kept saws, sanders and drills in the basement.

He's also learning to cook, whipping up homemade bread and crock-pot meals. He even made a cake for his wife Marilyn's recent birthday.

It's a relaxing change of pace from police work, which even at BYU can be stressful.

Over Harroun's career he's dealt with countless thefts, burglaries, a few social demonstrations, suicides, sexual assaults and even a murder.

About 20 years ago, a man was believed to have killed his estranged wife in Wymount Terrace but staged the death to look like a suicide. About a week later when the focus shifted to him, the husband took his own life, Harroun said.

The most brazen theft occurred nearly two decades ago at the Harris Fine Arts Center with the disappearance of a large, expensive piano.

A newspaper notice brought in a tip that a student — who shouldn't have been able to afford such a large piano — suddenly had one.

The student was confronted by police and the story tumbled out. He had backed his own car and trailer down the tunnel underneath the HFAC and enlisted naive students to help him load the piano onto the trailer.

"(Students here) assume everything will be fine — they trust," Harroun said. "They won't challenge it. If you are an opportunist and want to commit a crime, the best place to go in Provo is BYU."

To combat that, Harroun worked with The Daily Universe, BYU's student newspaper, to start the Police Beat — a daily record of suspicious or criminal activities — as an attempt to increase awareness among students.

"The hardest thing to get people to do is get involved," Harroun said. He continually encourages students to pay attention to their first impressions and report things that don't seem to fit. "I think there's a general attitude that it happens to somebody else, not me."

Even Harroun has been the victim of a crime when someone snatched an expensive camera lens out of his police office. Thefts and burglaries are the majority of crimes that BYU police investigate, Harroun said. That and parking tickets stemming from BYU's nearly 18,000 stalls and 20,000 registered vehicles, said Lt. Greg Barber, who oversees parking.

BYU's police dispatch center averages 150 calls a day, but that high number includes questions about tip-off times for home basketball games, requests for a "safe walk" to cars late at night and after-hour maintenance woes from on-campus residents.

One caller even phoned police for assistance after forgetting where a car had been parked, said Steve Goodman, police communications center supervisor.

Goodman was hired three years ago by Harroun to boost the technology aspects of the school's dispatch center. He said he appreciates Harroun's approachability.

"He was outstanding," Goodman said. "He had a lot of experience ... he could give me insight into a lot of things. When we were trying to make improvements, he knew what had been tried before."

It was easy to know — Harroun had been around since he graduated from BYU in 1973 from the university's law enforcement program, a degree no longer offered.

Looking back, he says it was his dad, an officer with the Oregon State Police, who got him into police work.

"I always looked to my dad as a hero," he said. "I wanted to follow in his footsteps."