The Long Arm of the Law
by Molly Osberg
Lawyers turned police and police turned lawyers trade places and love it!
After dedicating nearly 15 years to the Denver Police Department, and five years to the mental health profession prior to that, Joe Webb needed to move on.
"I was confused," Webb said. "Although mental health counseling and the police department had their rewards, I always wanted to go to law school."
After making sergeant in 1988, Webb enrolled in the University of Denver College of Law night school.
In 1992, he took the bar exam and joined Ireland Stapleton Pryor & Pascoe, where he was recently made a partner.
"I absolutely love what I'm doing now," Webb continued. "Would I ever go back to the police force again? No--unless I was 20-something."
After a few calls, stories like Webb's started coming out of the woodwork. While no statistics are kept that show the bridge between police and legal occupations, many law enforcers have traded the streets for the courtroom, and vice-versa.
Dan Miraflor, like Webb, also turned in his navy-colored uniform for the tailored suit look.
Quitting his job as a patrol officer, Miraflor is a third-year CU law school student who will be graduating in May and looking for work.
"Unfortunately my first experience with the legal system was watching the trial of my cousin's murderer when I was 11 years old," he said. "It created a sense of duty to be a part of the solution to the crime problem. Becoming a cop meant serving the public against criminals. My interest in practicing law also stems from that incident.
"Now, I'm pursuing another goal that I've always wanted," Miraflor continued. "I haven't ruled out police work. I really liked the streets, but it's a young person's job and I'm ready to try something new."
Coming from the opposite direction is Dave Brase. He found his place working the graveyard shift and patrolling the streets of northwest Denver.
"I think it's the coolest job in the world," Brase said.
Before taking on his nocturnal job with the Denver Police Department, Brase worked as a Denver City Attorney, prosecuting misdemeanor crimes and domestic violence cases.
"I liked being a prosecutor very much," he continued. "Part of that job was going on ride-alongs at night with police officers. I was very impressed with how they dealt with problems in low-income neighborhoods."
While Brase keeps his license to practice law current, he's never had any second thoughts about his career move.
"I enjoy my job immensely," Brase said. "In college, I always thought I was going to be a public defender or a history teacher, but I have no doubts that this is what I am supposed to be doing."
For Jenny Paddock, riding a mountain bike on her Boulder patrol route suits her much better than the corporate image she had as a solo practitioner.
"After unsuccessfully trying to get a job with couple police departments, I decided to go to law school," Paddock said. "When I graduated, the corporate rat race wasn't for me, so I practiced solo."
Paddock experienced the hardships and frustrations of a solo practitioner for two years. In 1996, she eagerly quit her practice when the City of Boulder Police Department began a big hiring push.
"Now I'm a member of the Boulder Police Bike Patrol--no 'People's Republic of Boulder' comments please--and work mainly in the downtown area," she said. "I do everything that normal cops do, but on a bike I'm more visible to mall patrons and businesses, and less visible to those who don't want to be seen by a cop.
"Just like lawyers, we're trained to think on our feet," Paddock continued. "I'm not one of those people who wanted to be a police officer since I was a kid, but I really love my job and enjoy doing it."