Sergeant Ward Smith quickly proclaims that his daughters, KCPD employees, did not follow in his footsteps.
Instead, the 35-year veteran of KCPD points out that they chose to serve Kansas City by working for the police department. They walked their own path. Though, the influence of a loving father grips hard.
“When you don’t have direction, you look to people you look up to,” said Detective Laura Easley, Smith’s daughter. “When you see someone successful, happy, and fulfilled, you think that could be me.”
Easley surprised her parents when at age 19, she joined KCPD as a detention facility officer. She’s now a detective in Internal Affairs. And like her dad, her final year as a teenager was monumental.
Smith was 19 and planning to “pour concrete and build houses” when a police officer at the University of Central Missouri stopped him one night.
It was a case of mistaken identity, but it was also a moment that changed Smith’s life.
“I got to talking to the guy,” Smith recalled. “We talked for about 45 minutes, and he told me how cool it was to be a cop. I thought if he really likes it that much, it might be for me.”
Smith tried joining the Kansas City Missouri Police Department at age 21, but the department wasn’t hiring at that time. To make himself a more attractive candidate, Smith joined the Excelsior Springs and Independence police departments for a few years before receiving the call that there were openings at KCPD.
Starting at KCPD in 1987, Smith spent much of his early career on the Tactical (TAC) team. Since 2006, Smith has served as the department’s supervisor in charge of firearms training and tactics- a role he wanted since he was a rookie officer.
“I think the reason I gravitated to being an instructor or teacher is that if you see there’s a need, if you care about people, and no one else is filling it, it’s on you to do it,” Smith said.
An officer does not want to fire a weapon in the line of duty, but an officer must be prepared. Based at the Regional Police Academy’s firing range, Smith leads this education and training. His studies have changed law enforcement methodology worldwide.
Smith sees himself more as a teacher than an instructor. An instructor tells you what to do, he says, while a teacher helps you learn. The lessons he’s taught have never been more impactful than those at home.
Smith and his wife Marisa raised three daughters in Kansas City’s northeast side. Easley is the youngest daughter. Their middle daughter, Elaina, works at KU Med. The oldest daughter, also named Marisa, is a KCPD employee as well, working as a forensics specialist at the crime lab.
When she was 11, Marisa Smith took a field trip with her dad on “Take Your Child To Work Day” that stuck with her.
“Unbeknownst to me, he took me to where I was eventually going to work,” Marisa said. “When I was in middle school, dad took me to the forensics lab when it was still on Troost, and I was obsessed.”
After volunteering with the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA), Marisa Smith’s motivation to help victims grew. She began at the crime lab in 2014 and now handles forensics cases of such severity that only first responders can understand.
“I’ve had horrific cases that I know I can talk to my dad about, “Marisa Smith said. “Nothing confidential, but I know whatever I’m feeling and how ugly it can get, I’ll have his support. There’s already that level of trust as a father and daughter.”
On this Father’s Day weekend, Ward Smith reflects on his “ridiculously close” family. The joy, the bond, the honor of being a proud husband and dad.
“The biggest compliment you can pay somebody is the fact that they’ve changed you,” Ward Smith explained. “I have three daughters and a strong wife who’ve changed me and made me a better person.”