Earned Accolades From His Peers
Every Wednesday detectives from around the city jump at the chance to bring their difficult cases to Smith. This has resulted in a 40 percent match rate for the department, a remarkable number. As a result the LAPD posts more hits than any police department in the country. Smith's work has earned him monikers like "Guru" and "a one-man weapon against crime." When asked about his eye for detail Smith says, "I think it has a lot to do with my memory as well." This combination of keen eyesight and almost photographic memory allows Smith to see minute similarities between guns, cartridge casings, and bullets in a database housing three-quarters of a million images. Although the computer is able to produce a slew of possible matches, the human eye is needed to make the final match.
Despite the inevitable monotony of such work, Smith says there are two reasons that he continues to find the work rewarding. He says, "It's satisfying to be able to do it well, and because I do it well my family, my friends, and the people I see every day on the street with their kids who are trying to make it and trying to enjoy a piece of this American way of life, it makes them safer to do that. In one respect it sounds corny but if I couldn't do that I would have left this job. What keeps me here is that. And if I ever feel like—at least here in LA—that if the rest of the people who I've trained are able to do it or do it as well as I can—and I'm sure they will one day—then I can leave it in their hands and go on and do other things. Right now I feel like if I do leave there is someone out there who is going to go unseen. But at least I feel like I'm doing my part to make it a little bit safer so that when my wife and kids go to visit there grandmother or when their grandmother goes out to work in her yard there is a less likely chance of her being hit by some stray bullet because of what I do. That is where I get satisfaction."
Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2004, p. 1.
People Magazine, October 11, 2004, p. 125.
Additional information for this profile was obtained through an interview with Richard Smith on February 21, 2005.
—Sharon Melson Fletcher
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