Chief Smith accepts Optimist award on behalf of GBPD
By Josh Staloch
ALLOUEZ – A group of around 25 gathered at the Village Grille in Allouez Wednesday, Aug. 19, as the Green Bay Optimist Club awarded its annual Respect for Law Award.
The award, presented each year to a person or group who has contributed greatly to the law and education on public safety, went to the Green Bay Police Department and Chief Andrew Smith.
“I love bragging about the good work our police officers are doing,” Smith said while accepting the award. “They’re out there every day and they’re working really hard. The ones that don’t deserve to be police officers, we’ve gotten rid of them.”
A possible silver lining to COVID-19, as Smith said, is overall crime is down 12 percent and property crime, a broad classification which includes things like retail theft and shoplifting, is down 17 percent.
Smith recalled the events of May 31, when Green Bay saw protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, and reflected on the resolve of his officers when things turned ugly.
While largely non-violent, Smith said there was property crime committed that night; burglaries, broken windows, fires being set and local authorities have since responded in kind.
Smith, who spent 27 years with the Los Angeles Police Department before coming to Green Bay, highlighted the work of Jena Luberda, an investigator currently on maternity leave.
He said she has reviewed video footage of that night’s criminal activity downtown, piecing together who was doing what based on surveillance footage and her own digging into social media.
“She’s a wizard,” Smith said. “Just relentless. She has made a total of 14 arrests or filings from that night, including the guy that broke into Camera Corner, including the guy who shot the gun into the Marathon Gas Station.”
As much pride as Smith showed in his officers, he made no bones about how he feels regarding some of the national headlines that put police officers in a bad light.
“A couple of things are changing within our department,” he said. “One is with the use of force. After everybody saw what happened to George Floyd – that was terrible, made me sick to my stomach to watch it – I want to make sure that our officers know that if you’re one of the three officers that’s participating in that, witnessing somebody doing something like that, that you’ve got to stop it. We’ve made it mandatory now, it’s part of our policy, that if you witness another officer using excessive force, you will stop it immediately and report it to a supervisor.”
Guidelines like that, Smith said, were always part of training, but never actually mandated.
He said he hopes making accountability a focus of what he’s doing as chief will result in good community relations down the line.
“We’re fortunate to have a very supportive community here in Green Bay,” Smith said. “It’s a crazy time to be a police officer, you see a lot of negative stuff nationally. But I’m happy to be here. I feel like I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to have my family here and be able to raise them here.”