From SWAT team to Silicon Valley, Jeff Smith uses Tech to Save Lives
Myth: All cops love donuts with their coffee.
Fact: After 31 years in law enforcement and as a Special Ops Division Captain managing 400 souls, Jeff Smith will take sodium-laced chips with his beer, thank you very much.
Smith, VP of Global Security and Multi-sensor Secure Operations Center (MSOC), joined V5 Systems mere months after first hearing about what the then-fledgling company was trying to accomplish. He has built a reputation for sterling work ethic and a deep-rooted sense of responsibility for his community. Having honed these qualities over a lifetime of service, he has brought this ethos with him to V5 Systems, where he believes the technology is a game-changer for public safety.
Click to learn about Smith’s transition from cop to corporate, his philosophy on stakeholders, his take on the potential of GSL technology to stem the tide of gun violence and the importance of future-proofing police work.
Tell us about your career in law enforcement.
I’ve been in law enforcement for 31 years. I was a police captain in charge of the Special Operations Division, which also included the San Jose International Airport. I managed around 400 personnel, including units like the SWAT team, the bomb squad, air support, traffic enforcement, the metro division, and the violent crimes enforcement team. After retiring from San Jose and before coming to V5 Systems, I went to Hayward and became a Deputy Chief in charge of support services. I worked there for three and a half years in the support services division, handling the police and fire dispatch, the jail, the records division, animal control, the IT unit, etc.
What motivated you to join and stay on the force for as many years as you did?
I like solving problems. Once you go through the Academy, and you start working as a patrol officer, you realize there’s just a lot to it, and that you can help a lot of people. I have always liked the idea of having the discretion to interact with people to make a difference in their lives, not solely focused on punitive measures. I quickly grew to like the idea of being there when people need assistance most. It’s such a dynamic job, and each day is different. And I liked developing the skills that one could use to talk to people and solve problems.
After your career in Law Enforcement, what was the impetus for joining a technology company like V5 Systems?
I spent 9 years on the SWAT team and six and a half years in undercover narcotics. In both units, technology’s a big part of it. You’re always looking for the best equipment to tactically support the SWAT team. In undercover narcotics, you’re doing wire-taps, and surveillance technologies are critical, so you’re always trying to be on the cutting edge of that. With this exposure, I’ve always been attuned to the technological aspect of what we do.
At V5 Systems, one of our core technologies, the OnSound Acoustic Gunshot DetectionTM, focuses on curbing gun violence. What can you tell us about the challenges of addressing gun violence? How would this technology augment law enforcement work?
A major problem with gun violence from a policing or prevention perspective is just because it may be predictable doesn’t imply patrols can keep 24/7 tabs on likely perpetrators. In areas where people are used to the violence, you’re not always made aware of it until or unless someone gets really hurt. I believe V5 Systems is taking the only realistic approach by combining our acoustic, video and license plate reading sensors to give law enforcement a comprehensive picture to investigate. Normally, a person doesn’t just pick up a handgun and fire it at somebody once in their lives; they are typically repeat offenders. The only way you’re going to combat this epidemic is by taking repeat offenders off the streets. And our technology essentially enables that by providing a tool for forensic follow-up. We do that by capturing license plate information at the ingress and egress points, as well as by our OnSight Portable Surveillance Units capturing suspects’ images. Ultimately, we are enabling accuracy in the outdoors by locating and cataloguing evidence such as shell casings in real time. And unlike other tech I’ve seen out there, ours is easy and quick to roll-out.
You seem confident this technology will spread as more PDs and cities learn about it. What’s unique about it that makes it more attractive to law enforcement than other gunshot detection technologies?
Yes, absolutely. We are offering a one-stop shop, from deployment to acoustic information to video footage to health monitoring of the units. With other providers, if you get GSL (gunshot location) alerts from one company, you may have to go to another company to get the video. I just know agencies, when gathering forensic evidence, would much prefer to have one contact, and not multiple contacts that they then have to coordinate and manage. When I used to handle procurement for Hayward for things like this, it’d be much easier to deal with one company, rather than having to patch together multiple companies that would offer potentially incompatible solutions.
What values from your time in Law Enforcement have you carried with you to V5 Systems?
To be committed to whatever you do. As police, I always put forth my best effort, realizing people’s taxes were going towards my salary, and I owed that to them. I think I’ve just always been that way, and I feel that way here. We are using our investors’ money, and I think we all strive to make sure we’re utilizing their hard-earned dollars in the best way possible. That obligation is something I take very seriously. It’s part of what motivates me to come here every day and fight the good fight.
Before we let you go, we’ve got a question that’s been gnawing at us since the beginning of the interview. Do all cops like donuts with their coffee?
No! Chips and beer for me. I like salty and carbonated. I’m not a donut person. When I first got hired in ’83, donuts were a thing. You would go and write your reports in donut shops because they were open 24/7. And it was before we had computers in the car and all that. You’d go in there at 2 AM and write your report and have a cup of coffee. I would say back then, more guys ate donuts. We are in better times.