Sgt. Lee Smith of the Longboat Key Police department has been a law officer for a long time.
Since 1999, in fact.
But the 45-year-old figures this might be his last stop. He likes the duty and its surroundings that much.
“I love it,’’ he said a few minutes after accepting a plaque, a pin and a round of congratulations as the department’s Officer of the Year on Friday, March 29 -- his birthday. “There’s always going to be bad days here and there, but I’m one of those fortunate people who gets to do a job he loves.’’
Smith is one of four sergeants in the department who supervise train and mentor.
In making the selection for the 2018 award, Police Chief Pete Cumming referred to Smith’s on-the-job characteristics but said making a final choice wasn’t easy.
“His exceptional performance both as a leader and as a service provider is the reason he’s been selected as Longboat Key Police Officer of the Year,’’ Cumming said from the podium in front of a gathering of Lee’s wife, Tahniya, fellow officers and town officials. “Lee’s work ethic and leadership distinguished him from a group of other outstanding officers. And the competition was tough and close.’’
Among Lee’s responsibilities with the department:
He’s an instructor for active-shooter response training;
He’s a firearms instructor;
He’s an instructor in the use of force;
He’s the department’s armorer;
He’s a taser trainer;
He writes traffic study reports;
He works with homeowners associations.
“That’s just a brief list, and there’s more,’’ Cumming said. “Trust me, there’s more.’’
Recently, Smith completed command leadership training with the FBI and received the FBI Trilogy Award in doing so.
Smith has been with the Longboat Key Police for seven years, coming to the department after working Columbia, Kansas, and Clermont, near Orlando. He also spent some time with the U.S. State Department working with overseas police forces.
Smith enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from high school and said he got a taste of law enforcement there.
Smith said the town’s residents make the experience of being a police officer a bit different than in most places and he said helping and serving them is one of the highlights of the job.
“The citizens always want to be involved,’’ he said.
As do the officers. Smith said one of his squad’s officers recently helped a man search for his lost car keys on the beach and sat with a man who was experiencing back pain while medical help was on the way.
Cumming said it was gratifying to work with a team of such officers.
“This is one of the things I like to do best each year,’’ he said.