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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Lieutenant Mike Smith retires, his service honored


Courtesy of Sergeant Filbert Barrera

Lieutenant Mike Smith stands in his office on Wednesday. Smith is retiring after 21 years of service for the University of Arizona Police Department.

Lieutenant Mike Smith is retiring from the University of Arizona Police Department on Nov. 13 after 21 years of service.

Smith began his career in law enforcement in the United States Air Force as a security policeman and then later returned to his home state of Iowa to work for the City of Grundy Center Police Department and the Grundy County Sheriff’s Department.

After a couple of years in Iowa, Smith said he left and began his career at UAPD in 1994. He said he chose to come to UAPD to follow Lute Olson after he left the University of Iowa to coach Arizona basketball. However, he said that the opportunity was what brought him to Tucson, after all. 

“Iowa is pretty rural in most settings,” Smith said. “There was a lot of opportunity in Tucson at the time.”

Smith started out as a police officer doing general patrol at UAPD before he became a bicycle officer and a field training officer. Shortly after that, he was promoted to corporal. After two years, Smith was promoted to sergeant and held that position until earlier this year. 

During his time as sergeant, Smith worked in many different areas including patrol, crime prevention, public information officer, training coordinator for the department, detective sergeant, motor sergeant and even managing the department’s website. 

“I got a unique opportunity to do every assignment in this department as a sergeant,” Smith said. “I don’t believe anyone has done that.”

His best night of work was in 1997 when Arizona men’s basketball won the national championship against Kentucky. 

“At Speedway [Boulevard] and Park [Avenue], there was a Baskin-Robbins semi-tractor trailer, a full 18-wheeler, stuck at [the] intersection,” Smith said. “Because the intersection was packed with people, it couldn’t go anywhere. It looked like a music video. People were on top of the cab of the truck throughout the whole length of the trailer [and] people were shoulder-to-shoulder; it looked like ants just took over this trailer.”

Smith said it was nothing but a celebration.

“There [were] so many people that poured out of the dorms and came into the heart of the campus from all over the city in celebration,” Smith said. 

As far as big cases that happened at the UA, Smith said the most severe cases he worked on were the College of Pharmacy shooting in 2002, where a student killed three professors and then himself, and the 2008 homicide that occurred at the Graham-Greenlee Residence Hall when a student stabbed her roommate to death. 

“You have the protocol for the police actions in certain events,” Smith said. “You never get used to it, but to go through it mechanically is very valuable for an agency to work through serious situations like that. I think both of them proved that our agency does some [of] its best work under extreme circumstances where everybody pulls together and gets the job done.”

Sergeant Filbert Barrera, public information officer at UAPD, has worked closely with Smith throughout the years and calls him a “natural leader” and a “class act.”

“He’s someone that, when things go bad, Smith is the one you call,” Barrera said.

Barrera said he specifically remembers Smith’s leadership during the College of Pharmacy tragedy.

“That was one of the worst things that ever happened on this campus and he was [the] first sergeant there,” said Barrera. “He took control and managed an absolutely horrible situation and did an unbelievable job.” 

Smith said he’s seen UAPD come a long way. When he first arrived in Tucson, UAPD was nothing but a small trailer on Santa Rita Avenue and Sixth Street, and it has now evolved into a large department, gaining its own building in 2000.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Barrera said. “His contribution to UAPD and the university is huge. There will definitely be big shoes to fill.”

After 28 years in law enforcement, Smith said he has had a colorful career and has gone as far as he can go.

“We’re a team; I’ll miss a lot of it,” Smith said. “I am an Iowa Hawkeye at heart, but now I am an Arizona Wildcat.”


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