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Richard Smith

Pursued Police Work Instead Of Ministry

Smith excelled in high school and earned many awards in sports and academics, receiving a scholarship to the College of Wooster in 1975. From the time he was 15 years old Smith thought he might follow his father into the ministry. "I prepared for it by going through the preliminary rituals," Smith said. "Once you decide, you can then become a youth leader and occasionally you are called upon to write a sermon. I loved speaking and the leadership aspect of it, being able to express myself about Jesus Christ and bringing my philosophy to the sermons I wrote and presented. The part I did not like was the politics you sometimes find in the church."

By 1980 Smith had moved to Los Angeles and received an ordination. "In LA I tried to establish a youth group and helped the church find a music director for the youth," he said. "I was also a youth minister. But several incidents caused me to decide against the ministry. I started looking for other ways that I might help the community. That's when I decided to become a police officer." Smith entered the Los Angeles Police Academy in 1981. In 1982-84 he began an assignment as a Narcotics Officer in Hollywood. From 1984-85 Smith worked as a training officer to new recruits. During the next two decades he worked undercover vice and narcotics details in South Central Los Angeles, did gang enforcement training, and began working for the Firearms Analysis Unit where he would distinguish himself as a ballistics expert with extraordinary skill.

Smith noticed some time before the ballistics assignment that he could see things in the distance a lot better than other officers. When he took a temporary assignment in ballistics to get off the street during a difficult time in his life, Smith found that his sharp eye was particularly suitable for that type of work. He was able to find matches between computer images, and shell casings culled from crime scenes much more often than other ballistics experts. Finding more matches allows police to back up witness testimony and get more convictions. One case in point that Smith helped crack was the murder of 12-year old Gregory Gabriel, a victim of a gang shooting, earning Smith a commendation from the LAPD Chief William Bratton.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Paul Anthony Samuelson (1915– ) Biography to Bessie Smith (1895–1937) BiographyRichard Smith Biography - Family Faced Racism And Death Threats, Pursued Police Work Instead Of Ministry, Earned Accolades From His Peers