Photograph courtesy of downtownlanews.com
On background: Smith is a Navy veteran and seasoned courtroom attorney. He received his J.D. from the University of La Verne College of Law and is a member of ABOTA (American Board of Trial Lawyers). A public safety and employment attorney for 25 years, he received the “In The Line of Duty Award,” Los Angeles Police Protective League’s highest prize, in 2012. Smith is a long time resident of Los Angeles and a husband and father of four.
Reelection platform: Smith says he has no tolerance for racial profiling. He is determined to build recruitment mechanisms that ensure candidates are evaluated fairly and reflect the diversity of our community. If elected, he pledges to spearhead “representative neighborhood commissions” that will focus on eliminating crime. Smith is also willing to reach out to software designers to improve and modernize how crimes are reported. One of his ideas is to create smartphone apps that instantly connects citizens with safety and law enforcement to share information. He also plans to evaluate existing gang intervention programs and support those that function as a safe haven and support system for at-risk-youth.
Campaign slogan: “Fighting for every family.”
In his corner: Inglewood POA, Retired LAPD officers, Peter Bakotich, Michelle Blackstone, and Jeritt Severns, City of Bell Police Department Sargent, James Corcoran, Actor, Haywood Nelson
As the City Attorney, it would be your job to represent Los Angeles in more than 500 cases each year. Which legal case from L.A. history do you find most inspiring?
I represented James Corcoran, sergeant from the City of Bell police department as the original whistleblower starting in 2010. He came into my office and what he reported—the scale of the corruption—just astounded me. I filed a lawsuit and the story broke about Bell and later got a lot of notoriety. I am able to say I was able to get this particular sergeant his job back. That was very rewarding.
If elected, this would be your first experience holding public office. How are you prepared to serve constituents?
Steve Cooley, one of the best District Attorneys in the country, did exactly what I did. He’s a courtroom lawyer. I am a courtroom lawyer. The job of the city attorney is to represent the people in court, to defend the city and sue on behalf of the people. Probably 70% of our work is in the courtroom. That’s where my experience lies.
On the other hand you have someone like Mike Feuer who did serve on the council and got turned out. Then he tried to be an attorney, but people rejected him. Then he went to the assembly and got turned down. Now he wants to be City Attorney. This is a man who has never set foot in a courtroom in his life. How on earth can you tell what’s going on in the trial if you’ve never done one? That’s like putting in a football coach who has never played football before. He’s literally got no experience in this area.
You talk about stopping crime before it starts. What is your take on California’s prop 36, which changes the state’s three-strikes law so non-violent inmates are released?
There was an interesting study that was done between L.A. and New York. New York took the approach of enacting afterschool intervention programs where gangs are prevalent. If you don’t have afterschool programs, gangs act as a proxy; they become the mother and father and the proxy for the child. In L.A. what we did was beef up law enforcement, which we called ‘trying to handcuff your way out of the problem.’ In 2005, statistics showed that there was twice as much gang relate crime in L.A., where were more money went into law enforcement and the city did not invest in intervention programs. So New York is a great model for us. The mayor has an intervention program called Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD). It’s a great program, one that I will definitely push for because it focuses on the family and not just the individual.
ALSO: Meet the other City Attorney candidates