After more than 30 years working for Trumbull’s Police Department, starting with a stint as animal control officer, Trumbull’s Mark Smith retired last Friday.

Officer Smith at first appears to have the no-nonsense attitude of a veteran police officer who’s seen it all. But he’s actually a person who spends a good deal of his time volunteering and organizing charitable events, particularly for the special needs population in the area.

Smith grew up in Trumbull, the son of Clifford Smith, a part-time special duty officer with the Trumbull Police Department.

Police Chief Thomas Kiely, who helped train Smith after he started, said he wishes Smith all the best, though it is a loss for the department since Smith was both a longtime officer and a hometown boy.

“What you lose is easy access,” Kiely said of Smith being from Trumbull. “You can shortcut problems sometimes and there are a lot of things you can jump on before they become problems.”

Smith said working and living in Trumbull had its benefits.

“It’s good and bad,” Smith said with a laugh. “You know everyone and everything but sometimes you know too much.”

Eight of the officers hired with Smith were from town and grew up together.

Smith spent about 20 years on the road, before working in the records department.

“You try to give people breaks when you can,” he said of his time as a patrolman. “If they are doing something wrong, either they learn from it the first time or they do it again and they get caught again. The biggest thing is you want people to be safe and not get hurt. People get mad at traffic stops or when you tell them to move their car out of an ambulance lane, but it’s about safety, and that’s the case for 99% of police officers.”

Smith has many stories to tell of his work through the years. He was honored in the past for his work in nabbing two men connected to a home burglary soon after it occurred. Police had captured one suspect and were on the lookout for others. When he saw two men driving nearby, the hair on the back of his neck stood up and he pulled them over. Investigation revealed they were the other suspects involved.

It was one of the few times Smith said he experienced that police instinct. It’s more important to notice your surroundings, he said.

“I tend to be very aware and very observant,” he said. “I can be at a restaurant with my wife and she’ll say, ‘You’re not even listening to me,’ and I’ll tell her, ‘I heard every word and I also know everything that’s going on with the people around me.’”

Volunteering has been a major part of Smith’s life and something he will continue. Some of the groups he is involved in are the Lions Club and the Trumbull MORE group. He is also active at St. Theresa’s and is a docent at the Beardsley Zoo. This past February he organized a special needs dance party. He has also been recognized in the past for his blood donations to the American Red Cross. To date, he has donated 21 gallons.

“This job put me in a good place and enabled me to do a lot of things,” Smith said.

While Smith attributes his volunteerism to his family upbringing, a tragedy he experienced in college was also formative.

He was a resident assistant at Providence College in December 1977, when a dorm fire killed 10 young women in a dorm next door. Smith knew many of the students who died and explained he was the last one off campus after the tragedy and the first one back, helping to clean out the girls’ rooms. He recalls handing back unopened presents to their families.

“I went to a lot of funerals; it was a dark time,” Smith said. “But even then you see how people react, the good that happens after something like that.”

As for his proudest accomplishments as an officer, Smith said he is proud of the time he was able to help a young person get off a destructive path or move forward in a positive direction.

“Not too often do you really get told you did something good,” Smith said, “that you helped someone go on the right path.”

Smith will still be active in his charities after retirement, and he hopes to find part-time work in security.

“There are a lot of good people in town,” he said. “I tell high school kids all the time that there are not many better places to grow up than the town of Trumbull.”