In honor of Black History Month highlighting Lawton’s first Black Chief of Police

Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 6:22 PM CST
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - When you first walk into the Lawton Police Department you are able to take a trip down memory lane. Inside is a wall displaying all of Lawton’s former police chiefs, and in the lineup is Lawton’s first Black police chief, James Smith.

“I didn’t just want to look at it as the first black, but it is an honor and privilege to be here I am blessed to be around some of the top-notch men and women to serve this community,” Smith said.

He said he’s always had the heart to serve others, but the problem solver in him led him into the career path of law enforcement.

“I always liked putting puzzles back together and in law enforcement, it’s more like doing the investigation when you have some critical things going on. You have to put pieces back together in order to help people,” Smith said.

Even with Chief Smith’s heart to serve and help people, he said he had to overcome some obstacles due to the color of his skin.

“Law enforcement is a male-dominated occupation, but early on it was a white male-dominated occupation, so yes there were some hurdles I had to overcome. And there were some things we all experienced, but do not let those bad times detour you from your goal,” Smith said.

In today’s climate with police brutality being a major topic, Chief Smith said he teaches his officers to always strive to do the right thing. He said he tells his officers to respect everyone, regardless of race or class.

“The law is to be applied equally, and what we see in other communities that’s not law enforcement. That’s where someone stepped over the line and when someone steps over the line we have got to deal with them fairly and effectively to make sure we still have the trust and respect of the community that we serve,” Smith said.

Chief Smith said his message to all people is never let obstacles detour you from your goals.

“Don’t look at the color of your skin, look at what’s inside of you, find your passion, find what really drives you, and set a charter course to go in that direction. It doesn’t mean everything is going to be easy, a lot of things are going to be very hard. Just because you have those difficult times, doesn’t mean you can not achieve your goals,” Smith said.