Salem Police Sgt. Greg Smith didn’t really intend to become a police officer — he wanted to get into firefighting, and had already gotten EMT certifications.

But firefighting was a competitive field to get into, and Smith struggled to find a position. He ended up following his identical twin brother’s lead by going to the police academy, because police jobs were more abundant.

Smith graduated police academy in 2010, starting out as a police officer at Utah Valley University, then at Payson, before finally accepting a position as a K-9 officer in Salem in 2013.

In 2018, Smith was named the Police Officer of the Year by the Utah Chiefs of Police Association in the small agency category.

Salem Police Chief Brad James nominated Smith for the award, highlighting an arrest Smith made that led to a gang ring inside the Utah State Prison that had stolen personal information from about 13,000 people.

Smith said the incident started when he was called to the local Salem grocery store, Stokes, on reports of a woman trying to pass off a fraudulent check.

Further investigation uncovered more fraudulent documents in the woman’s car, and a search warrant for her place of residence revealed thousands more.

“There were thousands of stolen checks, credit cards, blank credit cards, blank ID cards. You name it, she had it,” Smith said.

The woman was linked to a network working out of the state prison, and a federal investigation is still ongoing into that incident, Smith said.

The detective working the federal case is still in contact with Smith, he said. Last he heard, they had found 13,000 victims whose personal information had been used.

“We’re talking they had bank account information, death certificates, birth certificates, you name it, she had it,” Smith said. “It was unreal.”

Smith said he felt honored to receive the award, though awards aren’t something he seeks out.

But he was also humbled, he said.

“I feel like there are many more officers, even officers here in Salem, that maybe deserved it just as much as I did with the work that they do, or the work that other officers do,” Smith said. “It means a lot.”

Despite not having originally set out to be a police officer, Smith enjoys his job in public safety — particularly working with his K-9 partner, MJ, who he describes as a pampered princess.

MJ, besides sniffing out drugs at work, sleeps in Smith’s bedroom, plays with his kids and is always up for a solid round of tug-of-war.

“I tell people she’s the smart end of the leash,” Smith said. “She makes me look good. The community should be grateful for her because she does a lot of good work here, not only in Salem, but in the surrounding communities too.”

MJ isn’t trained as an attack dog, and specializes in drug location.

“During my shift, when we’re not deployed, I’m in here some, but also playing with my dog,” Smith said. “And how do you beat that, you know? Getting paid to play with your dog all day long.”

Katie England covers politics, the environment and courts for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2599 or kengland@heraldextra.com.

Katie England covers politics, county government and southern Utah County for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at 801-344-2599 or kengland@heraldextra.com.

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