February 6, 2019 Anissa R. Hicks

Law Enforcement Explorer to Sheriff

Original article by The Voice of Scouting

From Explorer to Sheriff, Justin Smith’s duty is to serve his community first.

Growing up in a small rural community offered Sheriff Justin Smith some key life lessons: a sense of responsibility, a need to do the right thing, and a commitment to his community.

After graduation from high school Sheriff Smith decided to pursue a degree in Administration of Justice at Wichita State University.  It was then, at age 19, that he joined the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Department Explorer Post 880 in Wichita, Kansas.

He credits the Exploring program as a pivotal step towards his career in law enforcement.  Sheriff Smith said, “As an Explorer, I gained life experiences that led me to a career in law enforcement knowing that I could make a difference in the community.”

The Law Enforcement Exploring program gave him practical experiences with traffic control, security at Wichita State games, and assistance with jail visitation, parades and state competitions while working alongside reserve deputies.

In 1991, he accepted a position as Deputy for the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.  While moving up through the ranks, he has served as Criminal Investigator, Patrol Sergeant, Professional Standards Sergeant, Captain of Support Services, Captain of the Jail, Major of the Jail, Major of Patrol, Major of Support Services and was then elected to his current position, Sheriff in 2011.

Sheriff Smith earned his Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice at the University of Colorado, Denver.  He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy: 223rd Session, County Sheriffs of Colorado Command School graduate, National Sheriffs’ Institute graduate and FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar: 70th Session.

Larimer County Sheriff’s Office Explorer Post 909 with Sheriff Smith, Post Advisors: Sergeant Weber and Deputy Hecker; Courtesy Post 909

Sheriff Smith supports the Exploring program within the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office, Post 909.  He says, “The Exploring program connects the Sheriff’s Office back to the community and we can provide youth the value of serving our community.  The program also helps ground our Deputies and our Explorers can see the sacrifice on the front lines.”  The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office has partnered with the Longs Peak Council, Boy Scouts of America to provide this program for 21 years.  Sheriff Smith says, “If you don’t have an Explorer program at your agency then you could be missing out on helping young people.  The Exploring program helps us share our mission and vision with young people at a young age and these individuals become some of our most loyal and dedicated employees.”

Sheriff Justin Smith was re-elected in 2015 to serve a second term.  He leads the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office of 380 employees.  Sheriff Smith said that after being elected, he has worked to build relationships within the community, including with business owners and partnering agencies.  His biggest challenge serving as Sheriff has been establishing and setting a vision and having it trickle through to all divisions of the Sheriff’s Office.  The Larimer County Sheriff’s Office Vision is, “One Agency, One Mission; Public Safety.”  Sheriff Smith is proud of the foundation he has built in the agency and knows that he has the right people in the right positions.

The law enforcement profession has always been a tough business.  Over the course of a career, law enforcement officers see the best and worst in humanity.  Sheriff Smith says, however, “It is a very rewarding career, you may not see the impact until years later.”  Over the years he has collected various thank you notes and sentimental items that make him appreciate his career in law enforcement.  He is filled with pride when he hears stories in our community about his staff going above and beyond the call of duty.

While serving as Sheriff, he has demonstrated leadership through two devastating natural disasters. He led the emergency operations through the Woodland Heights and High Park Fires in 2012 and the flooding across Larimer County in 2013.  During these disasters Sheriff Smith credits his team and partner agencies that worked together for the good of our community.  Sheriff Smith was often found on the front lines of the disaster supporting his staff and the residents of Larimer County.

Sheriff Smith has stood up to protect the 2nd Amendment Rights of the citizens of Larimer County, collaborated with local school districts to improve school safety, improved communications with the public through social media and has increased the number of volunteers within the agency.

“Sheriff Smith leads with heart.  He considers the men and women of the Sheriff’s Office to be his family and cares very deeply about the community he serves.  During our county’s historic fires and floods he was constantly on the go, directly interacting with those impacted, listening to their concerns and working alongside our personnel to address their needs,” said Nick Christensen, Executive Officer for the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Smith has provided leadership to several non-profit boards throughout his career.  He impacts our Larimer County community and the state of Colorado through his exemplary leadership.