"Recognize opportunity. Pursue what you're passionate about, even if you don't know what that is today," Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin told the students assembled in Schneider Auditorium on Johnson & Wales' Providence campus.
Kilmartin was this year's College of Arts & Sciences Distinguished Visiting Professor (DVP). Prior to delivering his DVP address, Kilmartin toured the Criminal Justice lab that opened earlier this academic year and met with several criminal justice students.
Kilmartin discussed the role and jurisdiction of the Rhode Island Office of Attorney General, and its relationship to the courts, the media and the public.
In addition to serving as that state's chief legal officer, the Attorney General and his office are responsible for:
- maintaining all Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) records
- running the state's Consumer Protection Unit
- overseeing both civil and criminal court programs, such as the Tobacco Enforcement Unit and Victim Services Unit, respectively
It's this last responsibility that Kilmartin describes as "the most heart wrenching and rewarding part of the job."
"These people are in the middle of the worst situations of their lives," Kilmartin said. By helping them "navigate a system which, if you don't work in you may never fully understand, allows us to help alleviate some of the pain they're experiencing. It allows us to be part of the criminal justice system in another way."
More than 300 people visit the Attorney General's office daily, according to Kilmartin. "This is a very person to person, face to face, type of job," he said.
Kilmartin, a Rhode Island native, joined the Pawtucket Police Department in 1984. He then went on to serve as a state representative for another 20 years. In 2008, when he was wrapping up his last term on the general assembly, he told his wife there was no way he'd run for attorney general. "Needless to say I'm eating those words now," Kilmartin joked. "But this is why you need to embrace opportunities. Don't be afraid of change. Positive change is a good thing.
"I don't care where you go on to work," Kilmartin said, "a police station, a newspaper—no matter where you work, seek and welcome positive change."