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A Friendly Face

Officer Claire Smith hopes everyone on Marshall’s campus knows the MUPD’s doors are always open
Officer Claire Smith, Marshall University Police Department
MUPD Officer Claire Smith returned to Marshall to work because she loves the atmosphere on the Marshall campus.
Officer Claire Smith’s favorite thing about Marshall University is that she can walk across campus and always be greeted with a friendly “hello.”

“If I walk from Old Main to the football stadium, every person I pass is either going to say ‘good morning’ or ‘hello’ or ‘Hi, Claire. I haven’t seen you in a little bit,’” she said.

Smith has a special relationship with Marshall University. She has been a student at Marshall for the better part of a decade, now working on her second master’s degree, and she actually returned to her job at MUPD after working temporarily in Charleston because she loves the people and the atmosphere at Marshall.

“I believe that the staff and faculty here truly are some of the most authentic people you can be around in a workplace,” said Smith, who is married to Cody Smith, an officer with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, and is mother to an 8-month-old baby girl.

“There have been days where I haven’t been my best, but I felt comfortable enough to answer the ‘How are you doing today?’ question honestly, and I was welcomed with an authentic and empathic answer. And I would hope people feel the same about me, that they can always get an authentic response from me whatever the situation is.”

“I introduce myself as Claire. I don’t introduce myself as Officer Smith.” - Officer Claire Smith

As an MUPD officer, Smith wants everyone on the Marshall campus to know that she and all the 25 members of the MUPD have their backs and that their door is always open.

“I introduce myself as Claire,” she said. “I don’t introduce myself as Officer Smith. I hope that breaks down that wall of intimidation of talking to an officer.”

She remembers being an 18-year-old and coming to Marshall for the first time from her home in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky.

“I was worried because I was officially out of the house on my own for the first time, but I knew that if something went wrong and it was an emergency, I felt comfortable and I was able to go to the police,” Smith said.

At one point during her time as an undergraduate student, something did go wrong. She had lost her phone and it was sending messages filled with gibberish to people. Thinking it had been stolen, she and a friend went to MUPD to ask for help.

“The officer I talked to, I remember him being so nice and saying, ‘Don’t worry,’” she said.

Turns out, her phone was just broken.

MUPD Officer, Claire Smith

“I left it on the roof of my friend’s car, and it got run over,” she said. “It was sending all these weird messages because it was broken.”

But she remembers the comfort of having the MUPD on her side, and she wants everyone on the Marshall campus to feel the same way.

“I want people to feel like I can be that to them, like I can be a place where they can go and talk to me about anything,” she said.  “Even if it doesn’t warrant a police report, if they just need someone to talk to that maybe isn’t their parent. I don’t want there ever to be this barrier.”

Smith said MUPD officers are happy to check in with people on campus. If someone lets them know that they haven’t seen a friend, classmate, residence hall neighbor or coworker in a while, or if they suspect something might be wrong, officers will look into the situation

“College students are at such an impressionable age,” Smith said. “You’re figuring out who you want to be, what you want to do. You’re probably getting kicked off your parents’ insurance coming up. You’re really thinking about what kind of adult you need to be, and all of these big decisions are looming. Whether it’s helping teach the self-defense class that we offer in the rec center or if I’m speaking to parents and freshmen about campus safety, if I can impact someone and make their day a little bit better and make them feel safer on campus, I’ve done my job.”

She said she’s proud to be one of four women on the MUPD force.

“Maybe it’s something that has to do with a relationship or an assault — sometimes people do feel more comfortable talking to a female officer, if they are a female victim, and I’m glad that we have one on each shift now who’s available,” she said.

Her advice for Marshall students and the Marshall community in general: Write down the serial number of your valuables so that MUPD can track them down if they’re stolen. Also, if you’re leaving campus, particularly at night, walk in groups.

Generally, “If you’re walking in groups of people and you’re not out looking for trouble, it’s not going to find you here,” she said. “I wouldn’t walk to Pullman Square by myself at 3 o’clock in the morning. And phones are good. I mean, technology has its pros and cons, but sharing your location with friends or family if you are going out and you just want someone to know where you’re at, that you got home safe — that’s a really helpful tool with iPhones now or any smartphone.”

“Marshall’s stuck with me. I hope they like me because I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.” - Officer Claire Smith

Being a police officer is not the career she envisioned for herself, but she’s right where she wants to be.

“As cliché as it sounds, I just want to help people,” she said. “I know that’s the textbook answer, but I started out in health care, and I got there, and I realized that was a no-go for me.”

An advisor pointed her toward sociology, where she took a class on human trafficking awareness, which immediately grabbed her interest. It was the topic of her graduate school thesis. With both an undergraduate and a master’s degree in sociology, she’s now working on a third degree, this time in public administration.

“I’m excited to be a student again. I like school,” she said. “At Marshall, I like that you get to know your professors. You get to know the people you’re working around. You get to know the dean of the college that you’re enrolled in. It’s a good atmosphere that you feel comfortable in, and you feel confident in.

“Marshall’s stuck with me. I hope they like me because I’m not going anywhere anytime soon.”