Safety first: Jacquelyn Smith finds niche in law enforcement

October 1 2008

Jacquelyn Smith, a sergeant with the Indiana State University Department of Public Safety, took an unconventional path into law enforcement.

Smith attended the Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI in the hopes of becoming an elementary art teacher. But a group of supportive co-workers quickly altered those plans.

A native of Clay County, Smith accepted a position as a dispatcher at the Clay County Sheriff's Department and spent the next six years handling emergency calls. There she developed an interest in law enforcement and later went to work as a dispatcher at Indiana State. When an officer position opened up on the force, her fellow dispatchers and officers within the department took matters into their own hands.

"My colleagues actually put the application in for me. I wasn't even aware," Smith said. "It was just bizarre."

Smith was contacted for an interview and later offered the job. She has been working to keep the ISU campus safe ever since.

"Jacque is a long-term employee of our department who has worked her way up from dispatcher to police sergeant and as a result knows all aspects of our operations," said Bill Mercier, director of public safety at ISU.

She graduated from the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in 1999 and was later selected as a crime prevention officer. From there she was promoted to police corporal and then sergeant.

In addition to supervising officers on the day shift, Smith teaches Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) classes on campus and in the community.

"We teach women how to protect themselves and be aware of their environment," Smith said.

Smith has worked a wide variety of cases over the past 12 years, everything from domestic violence to drunken driving cases. She now trains new officers, teaching them to be prepared for anything.

"Every day is different," she said. "One day you'll have nothing and the next day you're doing paperwork until 6 with no lunch break."

Officers develop close contacts across campus and throughout the community. That interaction is one of Smith's favorite parts of the job.

"She possesses especially strong people skills and really seems to enjoy all the public contact her job entails," Mercier said. "Because of her work on RAD and other crime prevention programs, our students and the campus community have received a great deal of valuable information to ensure their safety."

While she has found a niche in law enforcement, Smith has not lost her creative spirit. She painted a colt for ISU during a downtown fundraising event that featured brightly painted entries from a variety of area businesses and organizations. Smith's whimsical creation, "Galloping through the Sycamore Leaves", is now displayed in Hulman Memorial Student Union.

Smith has even done a little acting since becoming an officer.

"The Support Staff Council had a murder mystery dinner and of course I was the police," Smith said with a laugh.

When she's not on duty, Smith enjoys spending time with her family. Her husband, David, is a detective with the ISU Police Department.

Law enforcement has become Smith's passion and one she plans to continue to develop for years to come. She knows she'll always have enough work to keep her busy.

"I don't think there is a typical day," she said. "Just when it seems quiet, something happens."

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Writer: Emily Taylor, assistant director of media relations, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or etaylor16@indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

A part-time job as an emergency dispatcher turned into a full-time career for ISU Department of Public Safety sergeant Jacquelyn Smith.

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