UMSL Police promote Marisa Smith to captain

Marisa Smith promoted to UMSL Police Captain during a surprise ceremony Jan. 14. The advancement makes her the first female minority to hold a ranking this high within the UMSL Police. (Photos by August Jennewein)

Marisa Smith was promoted to UMSL Police captain during a surprise ceremony Jan. 14. The advancement makes her the first female minority to hold a ranking this high within the UMSL Police. (Photos by August Jennewein)

As she walked into a scheduled meeting in the provost’s office, Marisa Smith’s superb detective skills were working overtime.

“I knew something was up,” Smith said with a smile in the room filled with her colleagues and University of Missouri–St. Louis officials.

Smith was promoted to UMSL Police captain during a surprise ceremony Jan. 14. The advancement makes her the first female minority to hold a ranking this high within the UMSL Police. The vacancy was created early in 2015 when Captain Steven Salamon retired.

“I don’t feel like it was ever an issue that I was a female or a minority – I’m just one of the officers,” she said. “I’ve been judged by my work and supported all the way.”

Smith, who is of African American and Hispanic descent, grew up in north St. Louis. She has always felt a desire to serve the public and attended the St. Louis County Police Academy.

Marisa Smith, UMSL Police captain

Marisa Smith (third from left) was recently promoted to UMSL Police Captain. Pictured with her (from left) are Captain Charles Roeseler, Provost Glen Cope and Chief Forrest Van Ness.

“It wasn’t easy,” she said. “I was one of only two females in my class. And it was a lot of physical and mental conditioning.”

After graduating from the academy, Smith worked at Lambert – St. Louis International Airport for a year before joining the UMSL Police in 2003. She began as a patrol officer working midnights.

“The hours were tough, but I really enjoyed it,” Smith said. “It did give me a lot of exposure to the campus that I would not normally have experienced. I was able to become very familiar with the buildings and the residences. I enjoyed it.

“We do a lot of community policing here, so for us it’s all about getting out to meet the UMSL community, providing programs and helping the faculty, staff and students.”

In her new position as captain, she oversees Special Operations, Parking and Transportation and Internal Affairs and is also the hiring manager and Clery coordinator.

Smith said the sense of community is what makes UMSL such a great place.

“The students, faculty and staff are aware and do not hesitate to contact the police if they see anything out of the ordinary,” she said. “We are a strong community that looks out for everyone. And we have great officers who do a great job. They get out there and meet and greet the students, faculty and staff. They make sure that the UMSL community knows we’re here for them.”

In addition to her training and duties on campus, Smith has completed the Women’s Leadership Institute and Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Law Enforcement Executive Development. She received a 2011 Trailblazer Award from UMSL for becoming the first female detective in the department.

“I’ve had the chance to meet and work with some wonderful people over the years. Not always do I get to meet them at their best. Sometimes they are scared, and sometimes they need help. But they have touched me in so many ways, and for all I do for them, they have done just as much for me, and that’s what I love about my job. I really look forward to continuing to serve the UMSL community.”

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