LOCUST — In a July 22 press release, the Locust Police Department announced “with the utmost tremendous sadness” that their chief, Steven R. “Smitty” Smith, had passed away. WSOC-TV confirmed shortly after with the department that he had passed away from a heart attack.
“Chief Smith passed away last evening at Atrium Health Cabarrus in Concord. Chief Smith was off-duty at the time of his death. He was 45 years old,” the release said.
Smith had a long history in Locust, having been born in the town and beginning his police career there as well. He then worked in the Monroe Police Department and the Kannapolis Police Department before returning to the Locust Police Department in 2007. While being hired as a patrol officer, Smith was quickly promoted to sergeant and then captain within the department.
In December of 2019, Smith was appointed to the position of chief of police, succeeding retiring Locust Chief Frank Hartsell. Every member of the department, including the departing Hartsell, endorsed Smith as chief.
“Chief Smith was an outstanding decision maker and leader who held an extraordinary vision for the future of the Locust Police Department,” read the Locust PD statement. “In just six months as Chief of Police, ‘Smitty’ had been consistently praised for his performance by the members of the Locust Police Department, Locust city administration as well as the elected members of the City Council of Locust.”
The department refers to Smith as an “officer’s Chief” because he combined leadership with a strong rapport with the officers he oversaw. His philosophy of seeing the patrol division as “the heart and soul of a police department” was a big part of Smith’s success, since that is the public-facing side of the police for the community.
“Chief Smith’s goal was to develop or enhance the most well-equipped, well-trained, community driven patrol officers possible and every single member of the Locust Police Department responded so positively to that leadership,” the release said. “’Smitty’ was adored by his peers in the Stanly and surrounding county’s law enforcement community as well as by so many members of the Locust community that had known him his entire life. ‘Smitty’ was always a pleasure to be around and one of the most humorous storytellers you would ever meet. Chief always seemed to have the perfect ‘one-liner’ for any occasion. All of the members of the Locust Police Department will miss him so much.”
The department asked the public to keep Chief Smith’s family in their thoughts and prayers as they mourn his passing. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
The Stanly County Sheriff’s Office released the following press statement on Chief Smith’s passing:
“The Stanly County Sheriff’s Office would like to offer our sincere condolences to the family of Chief Steven Smith and the Locust Police Department. His loss is felt by us all, and none of us fights alone.
‘Smitty’ was an awesome law enforcement officer that always put his community and other law enforcement officers first. Most if not all of our deputies have served with him for many years, and many of them call him friend, mentor, brother, and family. Thank you Smitty for all you did and all you taught us, we will take it from here.”