Public safety has always been a part of Chad Smith's life and was a career he knew from an early age he wanted to be a part of.
A resident of Kimball Township, Smith's dad worked for the Fort Gratiot Fire Department for 20 years and is currently fire chief.
"There were times my dad couldn't be there for Christmas and other holidays and events because he was out there helping people," Smith said. "At a young age I got to start going on calls with him and that opened my eyes to what a life in public service was about."
Those rides inspired him to become a police officer and as soon as he reached high school he applied to be a cadet at the Port Huron Police Department. In 2003, he chose to enroll at SC4 because he knew he could stay local and get a great education. He earned his associate degree in criminal justice in 2005 and went on to complete the Macomb Police Academy a year later.
He says SC4's curriculum prepared him greatly for the academy. "The first few weeks of class were a big couple of weeks because you had to do well or you didn't continue on," Smith said. "From the law side of things to the criminal procedures side, the program at SC4 definitely prepared me for the academy."
Shortly after graduating from the academy, Smith got a job working again for the PHPD, and about three years ago underwent the application process to be part of the K-9 Unit. He says the position has been the most rewarding of his career.
"I was issued a one year old black labrador retriever named Liv and she has been with me every day since. She is so smart and knows me so well she can sense the difference between a good guy and bad guy just by the inflection of my voice," Smith said. "She is one of the best partners you can have."
Liv is one of two working dogs within the department and she along with Smith are certified in narcotic detection through the United States Police Canine Association to assist officers in locating marijuana, hashish, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine or any derivative of these narcotics, according to the department's website.
Some police officers don't want to work where they live but Smith said he is proud to be an officer, especially one in his community. He said he is able to understand the needs and downfalls of the city and can use those to his advantage to effectively enforce the law.
"I was born and raised and went to school here and those connections have become beneficial. A lot of people don't trust police officers but if they know who I am as a person they are more likely to come talk to me when they have an issue."
Smith credits his parents and his time working as a cadet for keeping him focused and instilling in him the work ethic he needed to help achieve his goals.
His advice for current students is, "Just keep at it. You have to be determined; especially if you want to become a police officer because the job market is becoming flooded so you have to be able to market yourself. If you give up or slack that is going to hurt your future chances."