Learning Law on the Streets

Three Former Police Officers Bring Unique Perspective to HLS

When most Harvard Law School students study, they do it from the safety and comfort of a classroom or library. Most look forward to seeing the law in action, not back on it. Former police officers Adam W. Braskich, Sean K. Driscoll, and Alan W. Ezekiel are not most Harvard Law students.

“People tell me I’m the calmest law student they’ve ever met,” says Driscoll, who is in his second year at the Law School. “Being a police officer puts everything in perspective.”

While the three men come from different backgrounds, each carries with him the unique experience of having applied the law in real life, before being asked to do it in a classroom or courthouse.

“[Being a police officer] has given me a very different perspective,” says Ezekiel, who is in his second year at the Law School. “You have a much better sense for what the law looks like in practice.”

BRINGING PRUDENCE TO JURISPRUDENCE

All three former police officers agree that their experience enforcing law on the street has influenced their study of it.

“Most of the people in the class haven’t actually seen this,” Ezekiel says. “Their perspective is very academic and in some ways a little naive.”

Ezekiel says that being a police officer showed him that many legal situations are far more complicated than they appear to be to the average law student.

“Other students see things as having fairly simple solutions,” Ezekiel says. “In the real world, the problems come in groups. People have a lot of problems that put them in these situations. People are impossibly complicated.”

I. Glenn Cohen, an assistant professor of law, says that Driscoll offers “real world insight” into how law is detected and prosecuted. As an example, Cohen pointed to a class in which Driscoll once walked his fellow students through a video of a high-speed chase that was attached to a Supreme Court opinion, explaining the police officers’ training and what could have influenced their behavior.

ON THE JOB

All in Cambridge now, Driscoll, Braskich, and Ezekiel each hail from different parts of the country.

Driscoll, who is from Queens, N.Y., majored in political science and English at the University of Virginia where he , before teaching in the United Kingdom for a year. After that, he joined in the New York City Urban Fellows Program, which introduces college students and graduates to public service.

Driscoll says that his path to being a police officer was a “bit random,” as during the program he was working at the New York Police Department in a white-collar capacity.

“I was always interested in law,” Driscoll says. “I signed up for the LSAT and didn’t even take it.”

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