J. D. Smith has spent many years patrolling the streets of Tyler, primarily doing traffic stops on motorcycle.
Although some people don’t believe they’re guilty, he said most who are stopped know they have committed a violation, and overall, he has enjoyed his tenure. But now, it was time for him to retire, he said. His retirement was effective on Sunday.
“I’ve put 40 years in, and I just felt that it was the time for me to go ahead and get out of it. I could have stayed awhile longer if I wanted to, but I think it’s just the time,” he said.
Smith, 62, of Van, has been with the Tyler Police Department since 1974. Before that, he served in the U.S. Army and worked as a builder. He said he later started a job search and saw an advertisement for the Tyler Police Department.
“I said, ‘Well, ... might as well try it,’ and 40 years later I’m leaving,” Smith said.
Smith started on the midnight shift. He later moved to the evening shift and then to the motorcycle unit. A couple motor officers were there back then, according to a news release from the police department. Years later, Smith worked community response, but then returned to evening patrol for a couple months before getting back on the bike, according to a news release. The news release also states that he “has been the longest motor officer for the Tyler Police Department.”
In discussing traffic stops, he said an officer has their own discretion, and he has stopped family before.
When asked about calls that have come in during his tenure, he referenced a house fire.
He said two children were in the home while their mother was out, and there wasn’t much furniture in the house. He said he kept up with the children for five years afterward.
Smith said there are many laws that have been added since he started as a police officer, and he isn’t certain that he would go into the same line of work if he started today.
Now that he’s retired, he said he will miss “just being around the guys.”
Smith said he’s not yet sure how he’s feeling about his retirement, but he plans to play more golf and fish more. He said he hasn’t thought about a job, and “if it comes along, it comes along.”
Of being a police officer, he said, “You have to really want to be in law enforcement to do that job.”
But, he said he has a good family support system, as well as a good church family, at Pruitt Baptist Church in Van, which has prayed for him.
“Everybody knew what I did, and they prayed a lot, and I think that’s what kept me a whole lot more safe than what it would have been,” Smith said.
Herbert Hayter, who retired in 2008, said Smith at one time served as his training officer.
He described Smith as “fair” and “knowledgeable.”
He said Smith also was dependable, and “You knew what you were going to get.”
Tyler police Sgt. Brian Tomlin, who has known Smith for 22 years, said Smith’s nickname was “Pops” due to his age and longevity with the department.
“He was kind of the fatherly figure of the unit,” he said. “He has definitely been here the longest with the most experience.”
Tomlin went on to call Smith “one of the most dedicated employees I have ever seen.”
He said Smith enjoyed his job, and is a man of good character.
In regard to his retirement, he said everyone is excited for Smith, but hates to see him go.
“We just wish him the best of luck. We hope he enjoys his retirement,” Tomlin said.
A retirement ceremony for Smith is scheduled to take place at 3 p.m. Friday at the Tyler Police Department.