Eric Smith has worked in law enforcement for 36 years.
Detective Eric Smith thought he had seen it all in the last 36 years of his law enforcement career.
The Longboat Key Police Department named Smith its 2019 Officer of the Year.
“It’s a great honor, Smith said. “It’s the first time in my career I’ve been named Officer of the Year anywhere.”
Friday also marks detective Smith’s third year working for the Longboat Key Police Department.
“I'm humbled by the idea that they think that much of me,” Smith said. “It makes me feel good to know that my efforts are appreciated.”
Smith has been a Longboat detective since December 2017. He played a vital role in the investigation of an April 2018 armed robbery that led to sentencing three men to prison.
“I listened to hours upon hours of jail phone calls, and I heard them talking about their crimes,” Smith said.
Police Chief Pete Cumming praised Smith's work investigating "economic crime."
In April 2019, Smith also played a role in the investigation of three burglaries, which led to the arrest of two South Florida men.
"A lot of it has to do with following the money," Cumming said. "He has been able to demonstrate the ability to take this all year long. Every case that he's pretty much touched, he's like a bulldog. He doesn't stop. He continues until he reaches and achieves a solution to the cases."
Cumming said the town’s Officer of the Year award is typically given out in January or February, but the COVID-19 pandemic made the normal ceremony impossible.
“His wife and our staff [were] there,” Cumming said. “It really is just a shame, and I hope he wins it again next year. We’ll give them a big celebration.”
Cumming said several civic groups and clubs throughout Manatee County would typically honor Smith’s work too, but many of the ceremonies are canceled because of the pandemic.
Smith joked that watching class Jack Webb police dramas “Adam-12” and “Dragnet” compelled him to pursue a career in law enforcement. He got his start after high school, enlisting in the Army and becoming a military police officer. Smith then worked as a Pinellas County deputy for more than 14 years.
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Smith said he was “shocked and angered like everybody else.”
“I saw an advertisement from the FAA for air marshals, and they were going to ramp up the air marshal program again,” Smith said.
For the next 15 years, Smith worked for the federal government. After a brief retirement, Smith relocated to Longboat Key.
Smith called winning the town’s Officer of the Year award “more satisfying” than a pay raise.
“I appreciate the recognition,” Smith said.