Tom Costa, 32, is a corporate lawyer for a large pharmaceutical company in Richmond. He wears three-piece suits and worries about trademark violations.
Ten years ago, Costa wore a blue police uniform and worried about the high crime rate in the Ivy City neighborhood of Washington.
"I always thought about going to law school, but there was a recession back then and I was looking for a good job with good money," he says now of his decision to join the D.C. police force in 1973. "That $10,000 looked good. I had always looked up to the D.C. police. When I came here to demonstrate on May Day of 1970, I found them [police] to be regular types of people. Not like the cops and robbers on TV."
Costa, who describes himself 10 years ago as a middle-of-the-road conservative, says his experience on the streets made him more liberal.
"I started out in Ivy City, and that's where I learned that it is [ridiculous] about everyone starting out equal and having equal chances in life. I watched a woman die in my arms from an overdose and I also delivered a baby. You see so much of life in the raw. Now, I discuss multimillion-dollar decisions in a board room."
At 26, Costa says, he had "plateaued" in his job at the police department. "I had to decide whether to stay or move. I couldn't see myself going to school nights. I had to give one or the other 100 percent. I saw my scholarship at Notre Dame as an opportunity, and I took it."
Costa says that the four years he spent as a street cop "were a special part of my life, like college. You share so much together.
"But now here it is 10 o'clock at night, and I'm sitting in a nice home--and not in some alley on U Street."