Sunday, August 17, 2014
From Florence to Afghanistan to Georgetown, Capt. Noel Smith, 44, of Murrell Inlet has seen a lot.
Growing up in Florence in what he calls “the ghetto” was his first eye opener.
“Where I grew up, it was the ghetto…rough…we had nothing. I learned a lot of people in that community just wanted to be heard.”
Smith was listening.
“I decided I wanted to be a great provider for my family…I wanted a family and I wanted to help the community. Police there never stopped really to talk to us.”
So Smith decided he wanted to “put a face on law enforcement.”
“It’s more than a badge and a firearm…it’s relationships.”
After 18 years in law enforcement, Smith is still working toward that goal.
He has a bachelor of science degree in Christian Counseling from Andersonville Theological Seminary, and is currently working on his BS in Criminal Justice through the University of Phoenix.
He spent five years with the Florence Police Department, then eight and a half years with the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office.
He came to Georgetown PD after that. But between the GCSO and GPD, he spent three years in Afghanistan and Haiti – from 2009 to 2012 – training police officers.
He worked with DynCorp International while in Afghanistan and it was no walk in the park. Even training police officers was a risky job. While he was there, he says, they had instances of student Afghani officers killing their American trainers.
He also worked for PAE, owned by Lockheed Martin, training Haitian police officers.
“These experiences were an opportunity to see the world,” explains Smith.
Two years ago he came back, settled down and went to work for GPD.
He has copious leadership training and has graduated Commander School. He has worked patrol, narcotics and has been in investigations for seven years.
His worst experience was a shooting in Florence.
“A young lady whose husband shot her twice in the head. Her nine-year-old daughter was in the bedroom and the husband was sitting in living room drinking a beer when we got there. I held her hand (the victim’s) until EMS arrived.”
The victim died on the way to the hospital.
And then there was the airplane crash in Florence that killed a mother, father and two daughters.
These are the images that stick with him.
But, he says, things like seeing the community get involved to help, offsets the tragedies.
For example, he recalls a community in Georgetown County that came together to help police stop a subject who had committed a lot of burglaries. It was a strong relationship between the community and law enforcement, he says.
His professonal goal is to earn his master’s in Criminal Psychology and, some day, perhaps be chief of a department. On that career path, he says, he wants to be the best boss possible to those that want to learn.
“You gotta be committed,” he says, “and I want to encourage young men and women through my experiences.”
He and his wife, Genia, who is assistant principal at Georgetown Middle School, are parents to Parris, 12 and India, 7, and a one-year-old Chihuahua – Bella.
His favorite pasttime is golf and riding his motorcycle.
“I think better when I do those [things].”
He enjoys going to the beach and the movies with his family. He is active in his church, Father’s House in Pawleys Island and occasionally enjoys freshwater fishing.
He likes watching football and is a fan of the Baltimore Ravens.
And he loves to cook. Is he any good? “Yes I am!” One of his specialties is salmon steaks.
He loves taking his wife to Jamaica.
“Just the two of us…I love going there to rediscover her.”
With the kids he enjoys “putt-putt golf” (miniature golf) and bowling and “just spending time with them…reading books and talking about school.”
His life goal is to start a mentorship program for young at-risk boys.
“I want to give them structure so they can go off to school and learn how to be young men…to follow their progress.”
Without programs such as this, he says, “they’ll end up like most boys…serving time.”
“School kept me out of trouble, that’s why school is important.”
He says the black community in particular is lacking good male role models…men who believe in them [young boys].
“You’ve got to get them to dream again.”