I was reading an old NYT Article, and it suggested that there is value in that police officers who are cross-trained as lawyers. Although rare, the article suggested that most who go through this route are retained as in-house counsel rather than practicing lawyers and judges. So I ask, can these police-lawyers ultimately practice law in the sense that they have the powers to investigate, arrest, try, and (if possible) judge?

  • In Australia minor crimes are prosecuted by “Police Prosecutors” who are general duties officers assigned to the role (usually at their request). The receive minimal training and are definitely not lawyers.
    – Dale M
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 0:47
  • 3
    In-house counsel are practicing lawyers.
    – cpast
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 1:39
  • @cpast but are they lawyers first, or police officers? Would one see them more in court or patrol/investigation?
    – Bluebird
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 7:31
  • Historically, most FBI agents were either attorneys or accountants in addition to being law enforcement officers (with the attorney or accountant credential earned first). I don't know if that continues to be the practice. Part of this was to make sure that there was specialized knowledge for financial crimes and evidence.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 18:34

1 Answer 1


Lawyers neither try nor judge cases; they advise and argue them. Criminal cases in jurisdictions based on British law (which seems to be what you are asking about) are tried by prosecution and defence both putting their best arguments to the court (either a judge or a jury) who then reaches a verdict. There is no reason why the prosecuting lawyer should not be a police officer (assuming he is properly qualified), though in reality 'prosecuting advocate' is a full-time job, so the officer would need to transfer to the District Attorney's office or something similar.

Actually, such an officer would be wasted by a transfer to advocacy. Somebody who knows not only what evidence is inadmissible and the leading cases on permitted searches but also where the local crime blackspots are and which officers, likely to fall apart on creoss-examination, should not be put up as the only witness is valuable enough that the authorities (whoever they may be) will make considerable efforts to use these talents to best effect.

  • My understanding of your answer is that even if a person is cross trained as both an officer and lawyer, it would be a poor allocation of scarce resources (skilled labor in either) and trial procedure (cross examination) for an officer to try criminals in court and vice-versa.
    – Bluebird
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 17:34
  • Under U.S. law, it would be common to say that all cases in court are tried by lawyers. "Arguing" would be one of the several tasks that lawyers perform while trying a case.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 6, 2018 at 18:32
  • @TimLymington lawyers argue a case, but not try? Based on your comment, I presume the two are not equivalent. Might I ask what is the distinction? I’ve always thought the two as the same.
    – Bluebird
    Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 2:26
  • @Frank: In British and Commonwealth English, trying a case is done by the court (judge and possibly jury) this trial produces a verdict. Lawyers, though their functions of advocacy, finding witnesses, and so on are certainly important to the trial, would be usurping if they presumed to try a case, as English barristers' code of conduct specifically reminds them. Ohwilleke says that American usage differs, though I am not sure how that works: is a defendant pro se simultaneously trying and being tried? Commented Jan 7, 2018 at 12:28

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