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April 14, 2020
The devil truly is in the details when it comes to the pursuit of justice. That’s the most poignant message 8th Judicial Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo shared with aspiring law enforcement officers recently at Piedmont Technical College (PTC).
“Right now, law enforcement is undergoing a great deal of scrutiny,” Stumbo told the group of criminal justice students. “That is not necessarily a bad thing. By the same token, you need to make sure you get out there and do things the right way” because even the most diligent efforts to follow protocol perfectly can fall short.
Evidence collection is a very precise exercise, and every detail is important, he noted. Investigators must take the extra time to label items completely, carefully — and legibly, keep strict track of the chain of custody for every piece of evidence, and thoroughly vet available witnesses early while events are fresh in their minds.
“We are the end of the line for cases made by law enforcement agencies,” Stumbo continued. “When an arrest is made, basically within 10-15 days, it comes to the Solicitor’s Office. We set up a case file and assign a prosecutor.”
Stumbo noted that, by the very nature of the justice system, there is a lapse of time between when an incident occurs and when it goes to court.
“You may be on the stand testifying as a witness. It will be hard to remember exact details,” he said. “Make sure it’s in the report. You will need that at the end of the day.”
“I can’t stress enough how important it is to get details about what happened,” he said. “By the time your case goes to court, it may be six months down the road, and you are trying to remember some details. If you don’t put them in the incident report, you can’t remember them. …
Also, you will be responding to many cases at the same time. As soon as you can, get all the details on paper.”
Stumbo’s sound advice gave students much to think about.
“It is tough going into this field. These days it can be an uphill battle working in law enforcement,” he said. “But this is a good field, and you can be proud to enter it.”
PHOTO: 8th Judicial Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo addresses PTC criminal justice students.