GUERNSEY – Consistency, longevity and service are just three foundational blocks that new Guernsey Police Chief David Smith is planning on using to rebuild the image and strength of the city’s police force.
Smith was sworn into his new position at the Aug. 17 Guernsey City Council Meeting at City hall. After a few weeks on the job, he is learning the new ropes. He is not a stranger either to Guernsey or to law enforcement as he has worked for both the Guernsey police department and also most recently for the Platte County sheriff’s office.
Smith grew up in Aurora, Colo., which is a suburb of Denver and had four siblings. He graduated from Rangeview High School before making his choice to join the military where he spent the next 20 years of his life and earned the rank of Master Sargent.
During his time in Air Force National Guard he was stationed at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora and also at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne.
“I also went to the Middle East seven times,” Smith said. “I started out as a cook, moved into fitness and then I became part of the mortuary team. I was stationed in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and I had a small tour in Iraq.”
On the seven tours he did overseas, Smith said he actually liked his duty there mentioning he really got along well with the locals. Each tour was different in length and ranged anywhere from four to six months.
“I had a blast there,” Smith said. “I got to meet some of the locals and enjoyed hanging out with them, got to learn some of their customs and courtesies.”
After his time with the military, Smith traded his Humvee for a limousine and became a limo driver in Denver which he also loved and excelled at.
What brought him back to Wyoming was a job opportunity to work at Wyoming Cowboy Challenge at Camp Guernsey as a cadre. He moved his entire family from a large city to a small city. He and his wife of 22 years, Mistina have their three children, Aliyah, now 20, Shaunta, 28, living now in Colorado and Xavier, 19 soon to follow his father’s footsteps and heading into the military next month.
“I saw that the Youth Challenge was hiring,” Smith said. “I applied and got the job offer. So we came up and I worked there about two years. We just made sure the kids got to and from class. We had 12 hour shifts and I was working days and sometimes I worked a swing shift.”
Smith said the biggest challenge working in that position was understanding today’s youth.
“A lot them are growing up with single parents,” he said. “So it was trying to be a father figure, but not actually a father figure and just trying to relate to them.”
While being back in a military environment, it was something Smith was used to. And then a job opened up in an area that he had dreamed of.
“They just happened to have an opening here and I always wanted to be in law enforcement,” Smith said. “But in Colorado you have 1,500 applicants for two positions, so it was really tough trying to get on there. I applied here and was able to get on.”
Smith spent time on the Guernsey police force which would give him some valuable experience for a job he hadn’t thought of at that point. Little did he know that he was to be the head of the department in just a few years.
From Guernsey, Smith went to Wheatland to work for the sheriff’s department for a while before coming back to Guernsey to be able to work under police chief Dwight McGuire when a slot was open. When he found out that McGuire was leaving, it was a tough transition due to the respect he has for the man. After thought and discussion with his family, he applied for the open position and was hired.
“Chief McGuire was here and I came in to fill a slot because they had a couple of openings,” Smith said. “When he left to become a trooper, the transition was made.”
He cited personnel as the biggest difference from being an officer and then making a jump to the chief.
“You’ve got to make sure the personnel is taken care of,” he said. “Before when you’re just a worker bee you work. Now it’s controlling personnel, making sure their training gets done, make sure they’re happy.”
Smith comes into Guernsey’s top police position with some muddy waters in the recent past. Turnover has taken its toll on the stability of the department and has put some concern into the community. Smith has already begun to think about plans to bring the community together and on the same page as those who are chosen to serve and protect them.
“I want to do more community policing,” Smith said. “I want to get the community back involved. I got a thing out right now called “dunk a cop” Oct. 3 and I want to get back involved with the schools, just to make sure that we are out to serve the public.”
He says his plan for the first year is training and education geared toward getting the community to once again trust the police department.
“We are all creatures of God and black, white, whatever I tell these guys treat everybody equal,” Smith said. “I think the biggest challenge is getting us back to being a standard police department and getting the community to know that we are here for them and we are on their side.”
Smith is initially formulating a webpage where the community has easy and instant access to the police department. They can share their concerns so that things can be addressed right away.
Councilperson Kellie Augustyn who witnessed the swearing in of Chief Smith said, “Dave is an excellent man. He’s great with the community, knowledgeable about the the job and excited for the police department. He will be a great Chief of Police for the town and a great asset for the community for sure.”
At the time of this interview, Smith had only been in the position for a week and he had hit the ground running.
“There’s a lot to learn,” he said. “I’m constantly calling the sheriff who is a big supporter, and I talk to the former chief and he gives me advice. I want to hopefully still be here 10 years from now, and that’s what I want to work on is hopefully keeping my officers here.”
Smith has been a world traveler, disciplined in the military, experienced in law enforcement and dealing with different people all over the globe. The small town of Guernsey is fortunate to have a man who wants to bring longevity to the position as well as fresh ideas and peace of mind. Especially in a world that has certainly been embattled of late.