In 1991, Dr. Stuart Platt, his wife and his three children posed for a photo outside the U.S. Department of Justice office building in Washington D.C. More than 20 years later, Platt, assistant professor of political science, will work in that same building beginning Sept. 18.
He will work in the Office of Professional Responsibility, investigating allegations of misconduct by federal workers. The office was created after the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s as a way to investigate high-level officials ranging from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the Drug Enforcement Agency, U.S. attorney generals and more.
“The director of that office … has tried to transition to very senior, experienced people,” Platt said, “who are not sitting in judgement without having been in the trenches themselves and faced with ethical dilemmas.”
Platt had a contract with the university to teach criminal justice classes for four years. He received a call from the DOJ in December, near the end of the four-year term. Meanwhile, his son, U.S. Maj. Jonathan Platt, was taking a new command and moving his wife and two daughters to Virginia, not far from the DOJ office in Washington D.C.
“He said, ‘Sure would like to have grandparents up here with us,'” Platt said. “When I looked at my wife, who’s completely retired, she was like, ‘Why not?'”
Platt comes to the role with years of experience in private and government law practice. He graduated with his J.D. from St. Mary’s University, and served as an assistant U.S. attorney, a federal prosecutor for the Eastern District, a U.S. magistrate judge for 12 years and an inspector general for the Texas Department of Public Safety. He graduated from the United States Army War College with a Masters of Social Service, served in the Army Reserve and retired as a colonel in 2012. Dr. Neal Coates, chair of the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice, said Platt’s experience helped the department overhaul its curriculum.
“He brought a breadth to our criminal justice program that cannot be matched,” Coates said. “We’ll continue to soldier on with other persons each year who will benefit from Dr. Platt being before them.”
Platt often worked out in the evenings at the gym, and that was where he said he got to know students the most. He said he will draw from his experience as a teacher when he starts his new role with the DOJ. He said teaching students how to apply the rule of law showed him how ethical decision-making doesn’t always come naturally to people.
“Part of it is innate to some people, but others have to really struggle to think about that decision-making process,” Platt said. “I found with students, some things came naturally, and some things they have to work at. And that’s true when you’re in those professional positions.”
Instead of issuing grades to students, Platt’s new role will be “grading” high-ranking U.S. officials.