I was a rookie police officer when I first embarked on my journey through law school. At the time, the why (of what I was doing) was less clear than the how (I would do it). My routine of full-time police work combined with part-time legal studies was grueling. In a 24-hour span, I would attend afternoon classes, scavenge for free food in the law school atrium, then head to the police station to suit up for my patrol duties. After finishing an eight-hour night shift, I would go home for restless sleep and homework, all before going back to the law school for afternoon classes. That same 24-hour cycle repeated many, many times during my law school career.
Jared Prado, U.W. 2015, is a Community Outreach & Resource Education (CORE) officer with the City of Madison Police Department.
This grueling cycle taught me about my intrinsic motivations and instilled within me time- and stress-management skills that I use to this day. That being said, my decision to pull double-duty was less calculated than one might imagine. Although I had an inkling that law school would be a good fit, my focus immediately after undergraduate studies was on the job that the City of Madison Police Department offered me. From the moment that I raised my right hand and gave the oath as a police recruit, I knew that this career would demand everything that I had.
The wide breadth of services that police officers are called on to deliver, combined with their unmatched power and authority, all lead to an enormous amount of responsibility. To put policing and the law into perspective, it helps to first examine what an officer does. Within a single shift, an officer on patrol might go from counseling neighbors on how to peacefully resolve a civil conflict, to driving in excess of the speed limit in response to a true emergency, to attempting life-saving measures on a dying person, to intervening between domestic partners in physical conflict, which likely requires the officer to take custody of, and deliver, a person to jail.
The law overlays everything that
police officers do, but we officers
are guided by our own moral
compasses more often than we are
by rational legal analysis.
Lawyers reading this column might wince at the potential liabilities described in the situations above. While that is understandable, police officers (law degree or not) routinely take these actions, and we are well equipped to do so. We are trained to protect and serve others, even when the ultimate legal outcomes of our actions are unknown. True, the law overlays everything that police officers do, but we officers are guided by our own moral compasses more often than we are by rational legal analysis.
A law degree has underscored for me the importance of two main things: preparedness and appreciation. Police officers must be prepared to respond despite the unknowns and to continuously improve our knowledge, skills, and abilities. We must also appreciate where we fit within the system, even if that means taking a hard look at the oppression to which policing institutions have historically contributed, because we serve at the will of the people.
I was a rookie police officer when I first embarked on my journey through law school. Looking back on it now, the why seems clearer than the how.
Meet Our Contributors
What does your job as a police officer entail?
I grew up on the east side of Madison and have served the city as a police officer for more than six years. I have worked the night shift for most of my career and have the most experience patrolling the diverse South District, which I love. Since 2012, I have been involved with the Judgment Under the Radar Training Group. I am a state-certified Defense and Arrest Tactics (DAAT) instructor, and I am currently assigned to the Community Outreach and Resource Education (CORE) team.
As an undergraduate, I studied criminal justice and Spanish at UW-Platteville, where I also studied abroad in the Dominican Republic for an academic year. While working as a patrol officer for the Madison Police Department, I decided to pursue my law degree. I graduated from the U.W. Law School in 2015.
Jared Prado, City of Madison Police Department, Madison.
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