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Veteran officer joins crowded field for sheriff

1/3/2014, 6 a.m.

The line to replace Sheriff Thomas Brown just keeps growing.

LaSalle Smith, who has 40 years in law enforcement with the Atlanta Police Department, the FBI and the GBI, said this week that he, too, has filed a declaration of intent to run for the office.

Because of a mix-up between the DeKalb Election Office and the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, his name was not listed last week among the potential candidates.

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LaSalle Smith

Smith, who lives in Lithonia, filed his declaration on Oct. 31.

He said that he wants to enhance on what Brown has done in office.

“He has done a credible job,” Smith said. “But I bring a lot of law enforcement experience. I want to enhance the morale in the Sheriff’s Department. There has been tremendous turnover and a shortage of personnel.”

Smith joins former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones, DeKalb Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Jeffrey Mann, retired DeKalb Sheriff’s Deputy Dale Bernard Collins, DeKalb Police Sgt. Romaldo Tony Hughes, Atlanta Police Sgt. Melvin Mitchell, and former Georgia Piedmont Technical College Assistant Police Chief Melody Maddox, who have all said they plan to run for the office.

Brown, who has been sheriff for 12 years, announced in October that he will run for the 4th Congressional District seat held by Rep. Hank Johnson. He is expected to vacate the office in March when he qualifies for the race.

Smith retired from the Atlanta Police Department in March 1998 after 30 years on the force.

He also worked for the FBI in Washington, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Fulton County and was Pine Lake’s police chief.

He is the former pastor of Bountiful Blessing Christian Ministry, which he closed in 2008.

Smith says he can further develop the Sheriff’s Office into the best in the nation. He wants to staff the office with “the most committed, dedicated, educated, highly skilled, qualified and trained personnel.”

Smith said that his decades of experience as a successful law enforcement trainer and security specialist will help him to reduce crime in the county and significantly improve upon the honesty, integrity and professionalism that Brown brought to the office.

“I want to do all within my power, working in concert with all concerned entities, law enforcement, other criminal justice agencies, the school system, communities, neighborhoods, faith-based organizations, to make DeKalb County the safest place in the nation to work, play, and live.”

The special election to replace Brown is expected to take place alongside the 2014 Democratic and Republican primary on May 20.