A Force for Good: Double Alumnus Wins Fulbright Award to Study Deadly Force in London

A Force for Good: Double Alumnus Wins Fulbright Award to Study Deadly Force in London

A Force for Good: Double Alumnus Wins Fulbright Award to Study Deadly Force in London

Master’s and doctoral alumnus James Drylie, a retired police lieutenant and current Executive Director of the Criminal Justice Department at Kean University, recently won a Police Research and Criminal Justice Scholar Fulbright Award that will take him to London this summer to continue his research on the police use of deadly force.

Drylie first became interested in law enforcement during his years as an undergraduate at Kean College in the late 1970’s, and soon thereafter joined the police department in his hometown of West Orange, N.J. After becoming a range master, he trained cadets in the use of deadly force at the academy, but he has had to use that training in real life on more than one occasion. “I’ve been involved in incidents when I had to use deadly force, and I’ve had deadly force used against me,” he said.

Drylie recalled an incident in the early 1990’s, when New Jersey state troopers became involved in a shootout with three men driving a van down the New Jersey Turnpike. The officers had fired their weapons, but no one was hurt in the incident. Nevertheless, Drylie turned the event over in his mind, searching for a scenario where the troopers could have avoided firing their weapons. “I saw the opportunity for research because I was already living it,” he said.

After obtaining his first master’s degree from Jersey City State College (now New Jersey City University), Drylie started teaching as an adjunct at various local colleges in 1990. That same year, he was promoted to lieutenant, bought his first house, and had his first child.

For a while, Drylie occupied the dual role of cop by day, college professor by night. His interest in research eventually won out, and in 1996 he began studying criminal justice at John Jay. Under the tutelage of the late Dr. Jim Fyfe, the leading expert in the use of deadly force at that time, Drylie dove headlong in academia and retired from the West Orange P.D. after 25 years on the job. He obtained his master’s from John Jay in 2003 and his Ph.D. in 2006, with his dissertation focusing on suicide-by-cop (a topic on which he would later co-author a book).

When asked about how he applied for the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, Drylie replied, “Having been in government for 25 years, I have a way of getting things done.”

In London, Drylie will work with New Scotland Yard and the Scottish Institute of Policing Research to conduct an analysis of the use of deadly force by officers of the Metropolitan Police Service compared to officers in the U.S. He pointed out that in the U.S., there are 500 cases per year involving use of deadly force by police, compared to just 10 or 12 in the U.K. “There are lot of differences in how they approach force,” said Drylie. “Through a comparative analysis, I can come back and find a missing variable or a missing communication tool or skill officers can use to avoid deadly force.”

“I feel that my experience at John Jay fully prepared me for this,” Drylie said. “With the level of discipline I acquired at John Jay, I feel very comfortable approaching the Fulbright.”