In many ways, Herschel C. Smith is a minister with a badge and gun.
Once a pastor, today he is Waller County’s Precinct 3 Constable, a role he has transformed through transparency, justice, and community service.
“I love my community and want to make a difference,” says the HCC graduate. “In many ways, this is like a ministry to me.”
His passion shows. In November 2016, Smith was elected to a second term against two opponents with 77% of all votes cast.
Smith learned his policing skills at the HCC Police Academy, where he graduated in 2008.
“I was 47 years old, the oldest one in the class,” he laughs. “I got some teasing about that. But I had been in ministry for 23 years, and realized I needed to make a career change if I was going to have enough money for retirement.”
So, with seven children at home, Smith stepped away from one form of public service, and into another.
He attended HCC’s Northwest campus full time while working as a security guard at a large mall.
“I chose HCC after talking with many friends in law enforcement,” he says. “HCC was their top recommendation.”
There, he says, he met instructors that challenged him to “do better.” He learned about the law, and the importance of endurance.
“HCC wasn’t so expensive that I couldn’t afford it,” the Constable remembers. “I didn’t have to struggle paying the tuition.
“And the Academy provides a great support system. The people help you succeed. They provide help when help is needed.”
Sitting in class, Smith realized that God had moved him from one “pulpit” to another.
“I understood that policing is helping people; it’s ministry!” he says. “I realized I had found a calling.”
A native of Waller County, Smith moved to Prairie View after graduation in order to pursue a personal ambition: He wanted to run for the Precinct 3 Constable’s position.
He was elected the first time in 2013 by a mere 26 votes, and went to work.
Smith built community trust and support for the police department by hosting free barbecues on Juneteenth each year. He grew the department to 30 officers, many of them volunteers.
“HCC taught me basic police skills,” the Constable says. “At the heart of that is community support. You can’t be successful with public trust and goodwill. We rely on our citizens to help us as police officers, and they count on us to be fair and just.”
Smith, an African-American, says that, despite recent negative news about police officers, policing is still a great way to make a difference.
“I tell young men and women that they can change perspectives. They can build trust. If you love your community, there is no better job you can do to support it and ‘give back.’”
The popular Constable, now 57, isn’t stopping anytime soon. He has one remaining ambition: to run for Waller County Sheriff, and a chance to take his “calling” to even a higher level.