by Ashley Flynn
After serving with the Wabash City Police Department for 41 years, Chief Charles Smith will retire Feb. 25, 2014.
The Wabash Board of Public Works and Safety unanimously approved his retirement, as well as his replacement, Assistant Chief Larry Schnepp. Third shift Captain Matt Bruss will become the new assistant chief. The department will begin looking to fill the vacancy in early March.
“After 41 years, it’s time,” Chief Smith told The Paper. “Things are changing a little faster than what I can keep up with anymore.”
Chief Smith began his career on Jan. 1, 1972 when he was sworn in by Mayor James Vice. Before that, he served in the U.S. Army for four years as a military policeman. He enlisted shortly after graduating from Maconaquah High School in Miami County.
“I got the idea that being a policeman isn’t a bad career to have,” he said. “I’ve been in about every position available here, and I’ve enjoyed it.”
Chief Smith says he’s confident that he’s leaving the department in good shape.
“We’ve done a lot here since I’ve been chief and that’s really the only position here that you can make changes in. Overall, being able to bring the department up computer wise. We’ve got the most current radios in the vehicles. We have in-car camera systems, recording systems, and an interview room with the top equipment in it. But leaving the department where it should be with equipment and training and everything that’s needed nowadays, I feel comfortable with that.”
But his biggest accomplishment has been establishing the drug unit.
“The biggest thing I’ve accomplished with the help of the department and the mayor has been the drug unit we established in 2004. Like I tell everyone, it’s a shame that a city this size, as small as it is, has to have a drug unit. We have two guys back there and the Wabash County Sheriffs Department and North Manchester Police assist us when they can with manpower.
“We could put two more guys back there and still keep them busy. I kind of joke with people when they ask how things are going. I say, ‘well, we have very good job security.’ I say that as a joke, but I’m serious.”
Chief Smith has battled the city’s drug use throughout his career, and its growth has, in part, helped him decide to retire.
“People are different than they used to be. You have a lot of people now… as the drugs go, there’s so much more than the general public realizes it. A lot more people are involved in drugs. We are losing a lot of people, maybe not by death yet, but their minds are gone. It’s a shame, but it’s a sign of the times. It just takes a lot more training now than it used to. I think it also takes a better-educated officer, and it’s a lot faster paced than it used to be. But it’s been a good run.”
His biggest reasons for retirement are his three young grandchildren. After retirement, Chief Smith plans to move to Lafayette where his daughter and grandchildren live.
His wife, a retired OJ Neighbours Elementary teacher, has already moved.
“We’ve had a house down there approximately 3 to 4 years. That’s been the goal. I go down there on weekends and spend time with them. Now it’s just a transitional type period.”
Although he’s moving, Chief Smith plans on visiting.
“I’m leaving on a good note. Leaving a good group of people. Hopefully I’ll be back and forth to visit with them. I have reasons to come back in town since our son is still here.”
But for now, he’s, “looking forward to staying healthy and enjoying retirement.”