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Impact - Cecil Smith: Degree of Honor

Tags: Alumni Profile
Published 07/27/2020

Sanford police chief credits ECC with opportunity and success

During his 25-year career with the Elgin Police Department (EPD), Cecil Smith rose through the ranks from patrol officer to commander of the Special Investigations Division. Smith’s dream of leading a police department inspired him to enroll at Elgin Community College to help advance his career. 

Returning to School

"After 18 years with the EPD, I realized it was time to complete my higher education," said Smith. "I had many friends and colleagues who attended ECC…and I knew it was a great institution. ECC's faculty were all experienced in law enforcement and dedicated to the success of their students," he said.

From 2006 to 2008, Smith dedicated his time to earn both an associate degree from ECC and a bachelor’s degree through the Columbia College of Missouri-Elgin program on the ECC campus. Working full time as a police commander, taking classes, and raising four kids would be daunting to most, but Smith recognized ECC as his opportunity to fulfill his educational and career goals. "I was motivated by the idea that with greater education comes greater success," he reflected.

New Opportunities

In 2008, Smith was inspired to apply to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's National Training Academy, a program in which less than one percent of all law enforcement officers are selected for admission. Upon graduating from the FBI Academy, he became the first African American appointed to the role of deputy chief of police for the EPD.

Smith achieved his ultimate goal of leading his own department in 2013, when he was appointed chief of police for the Sanford Police Department in Sanford, Florida, where he still serves today.

Responding to Current Times

While Smith recognizes that the COVID-19 crisis has impacted the way that he and his officers do their jobs, he affirms that their ultimate mission remains the same.

“Our roles are forever changing, but the primary focus will always be on ensuring that the community is safe and feels protected, essential services are provided, and that we provide education to assist the community in protecting themselves,” he said.

Pursuing Your Dreams

Smith also has advice for anyone considering going back to school:

"Just do it. Time waits for no one, and the sooner you take that step, the greater your accomplishment will be."

Photo credit: Steven Sobel Studios


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