Law enforcement more than a career to Franklin Officer

Published 10:31 am Friday, September 30, 2016

Thanks to the quick action and experience of a Franklin policewoman, there’s a small child who’s living happily oblivious to a tragedy that nearly cost her life.

Officer Stephanie R. Sumpter remembered being on Clay Street on Labor Day when at 6:01 p.m. she got a call about a child who was choking at the McDonald’s Restaurant on Armory Drive. En route, Sumpter heard that the 1-year-old had become unresponsive; that her air passage couldn’t be cleared.

Arriving on the scene, about five or six people rushed out with the manager carrying the limp child.

Taking control of the situation, Sumpter flipped the girl up — the face was ashen, lips were gray from not breathing; reportedly, the child had choked on a candy.

Three times the officer had to struck the girl’s back in hopes of dislodging the food. She kind of gasped and let out a little whimper.

Encouraged, Sumpter hit the back twice more and then the child gasped.

“I was super excited,” the officer said, who added the girl immediately began to cry loudly. “Scream your head off,” Sumpter said then, happy for the outcome.

The rescue squad had pulled up just then and child was taken to the hospital for an examination. The officer said she had since heard that the girl seems to be doing well.

Sumpter’s training to act so effectively came from an obvious source.

“I used to be a nurse,” said the West Virginia native, adding her experience has taken her to hospitals and nursing homes. She comes to Western Tidewater via her husband, whose family is from here.

“I have a big interest in helping people,” Sumpter said to explain the motivation for first going into the medical field and, by extension, police work. ‘I thought it was the best career field at the time.”

Locally, at one time she even worked at The Children’s Center and its Head Start program.

But a growing sense of discouragement with the health care system in general moved her to rethink the career path. Truth to tell, nursing wasn’t actually her lifelong dream.

“I always wanted to be a police officer,” a fact that her own mother thought hilarious. “‘I never thought of you as a nurse,’” Sumpter remembered her mom saying after announcing the decision to change careers. She was reminded that a middle school yearbook mentions that at the time she was thinking about law enforcement even then.

So a little over 3 ½ years ago, Sumpter made the change to train as a police officer, and later found herself at Southampton Sheriff’s Department and eventually in the Franklin force, from which she hopes to one day retire.

“It’s a profession, not just a career,” Sumpter added about the lifestyle change.

Though she was not showered with praise or offered tokens of gratitude from the girl’s family, that’s quite OK with her.

“What’s important to me is the child is still here,” said Sumpter.