Laurie Smith

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Laurie Smith
28th Sheriff of Santa Clara County
Assumed office
December 15, 1998
Assistant Sheriff of Santa Clara County
In office
1990 – December 15, 1998
Personal details
BornJune 21, 1952 [1]
Lansing, Michigan, USA
Political partyRepublican[2]
Spouse(s)Brannan Smith[3]
ChildrenShannan Smith[3]
OccupationSheriff of Santa Clara County, California
Known forLaw Enforcement

Laurie Smith (born June 21, 1952) is Sheriff of Santa Clara County, California, and the first female County Sheriff in the history of the state.

Early life and education[edit]

Laurie Smith is a native of Michigan, where she lived until completion of high school. In 1969 she relocated to San Jose, California, for college and to begin her law enforcement career.[4] Smith has a bachelor's degree in Administration of Justice from San Jose State University and a master's degree in Business Management from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.[5] She is a graduate of the California Command College and of the FBI National Academy[6] and National Executive Institute.[4]

Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office[edit]

Deputy Sheriff: 1973–1998[edit]

Smith began her career at the Sheriff's Office in 1973, working as a matron (the former title for a female Sheriff's Deputy) at the Santa Clara County Jail until 1976.[5] She then became one of the first female permanent undercover vice cops. In three years in this position, she posed as a prostitute, a vendor of stolen goods, and a drug user.[5] She next worked in the patrol division, then became a watch commander over the jails.[5]

Assistant Sheriff: 1990–1998[edit]

In 1990, Sheriff Chuck Gillingham promoted her to Assistant Sheriff.[6][5] (At the time, Gillingham was criticized for promoting Smith and two others over other candidates of higher rank, in particular for changing the job description to make a sergeant, her rank at the time, eligible for the post of Assistant Sheriff.[5]) In 1992, a male deputy filed an internal complaint against Smith after being transferred out of the narcotics unit while a female deputy with less seniority was allowed to remain. Smith stated that it was not her decision. The same deputy later filed a sexual harassment complaint against Smith, but she was found innocent.[5]

Sheriff: 1998–present[edit]

After eight years as Assistant, Smith was elected Sheriff of Santa Clara County on November 3, 1998 by a substantial margin and took office on December 15, 1998, becoming the first female sheriff in California.[6][7]


After Santa Clara County District Attorney Dolores Carr made a controversial decision not to prosecute on grounds of insufficient evidence in an alleged rape of a 17-year-old in San Jose in March 2007, Sheriff Smith declared the case "still open" and that she believed a sexual assault did occur. Carr submitted the case to the Office of the State Attorney General for review.[8][9][10]

Fourth term: 2010–2014[edit]

In 2010, Metro Silicon Valley credited Smith with putting the sheriff's office on a sound and efficient basis.[11] She was re-elected in 2010.[12]

A lawsuit in 2011 claimed that Smith issues concealed carry permits preferentially to friends and donors.[13]

In 2012, there was controversy over Smith's assigning a bodyguard to Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa, Jr., who was ultimately convicted of misuse of funds and other crimes.[14] The bodyguard was a family friend of Shirakawa's whose brother was a political advisor, and was reassigned by the Sheriff's Office after criticism.[15][16][17]

Fifth term: 2014–2018[edit]

In June 2014 Smith won election for a fifth term against retired Sheriff's Captain Kevin Jensen,[18] who had been endorsed by the Santa Clara County Deputy Sheriffs' Association and the Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers' Association.[19]

On August 27, 2015, mentally-ill inmate Michael Tyree was beaten to death[20] by three jail guards who were convicted of second-degree murder in 2017.[21]

Two inmates escaped from custody in San Jose in November 2016.[22] Two inmates escaped from custody in Palo Alto in November 2017.[23]

On June 5, 2018, Smith ran for re-election to her sixth term against five challengers including former undersheriff John Hirokawa and Deputy Joseph LaJeunesse.[21] The results required the first run-off of her career, against Hirokawa, on November 6, 2018;[24] Smith was re-elected.[25]

Sixth term: 2018–2022[edit]

In 2019, The Mercury News and affiliates uncovered evidence that CCW permits may have been issued in a "pay-for-play" fashion to those who donated money to her campaign reelection funds.[26] The Santa Clara County DA opened an investigation and on August 7, 2020, four individuals, including Capt. James Jensen, were indicted by a grand jury.[27] On November 20, 2020, Undersheriff Rick Sung was also indicted.[28] On December 14, 2021 Smith was indicted by The Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury on seven counts of corruption and misconduct.

On March 10, 2022, Smith announced that she will retire at the end of her term in January 2023.[29]


As of 2014, Smith has been on the Salvation Army Board of Directors, a member of Rotary International, a member of the Advisory Board at the University of San Francisco, and a member of the Administration of Justice Program Advisory Board at De Anza College. She is part of the National Sheriffs' Association, and participates in half a dozen regional and international law enforcement groups (in particular she was President of the California State Sheriffs' Association in 2007–08 and is on the President's Council as of 2014) as well as a dozen local groups.[4]


  1. ^ "Metroactive News & Issues | Public Eye". 2021-06-09. Archived from the original on 2021-06-09. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  2. ^ politics, San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local (Mar 12, 2014). "Odd Bunch: Republican Sheriff Laurie Smith, Organized Labor". San Jose Inside. Retrieved Jan 5, 2021.
  3. ^ a b Charlie Breitrose, "Election '98: Sheriff-elect aims to build bridges", Palo Alto Online, November 11, 1998.
  4. ^ a b c Full Biography for Laurie Smith. Candidate for Sheriff; County of Santa Clara, Smart Voter, June 8, 2010, retrieved January 31, 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Christopher Gardner, "Sheriff Laurie?" Metro Silicon Valley March 26, 1998, Accessed June 25, 2009.
  6. ^ a b c "Laurie Smith" at Santa Clara Office of the Sheriff, retrieved March 8, 2017
  7. ^ "County Swears in States 1st Female Sheriff," San Jose Mercury News, December 16, 2008 refers to "a landslide."
  8. ^ C.W. Nevius, "State's Involvement Could Give Fresh Start to De Anza case," San Francisco Chronicle June 6, 2007, p. A13. Accessed December 5, 2009.
  9. ^ "AG to Review De Anza Case," San Jose Mercury News, June 6, 2007.
  10. ^ Leslie Griffy, "De Anza rape case in Limbo, Year Later," The Oakland Tribune, March 3, 2008.
  11. ^ "25 Who Changed Silicon Valley," Metro Silicon Valley March 17, 2010: "California's first female sheriff ... professionalized [the] organization ... The sheriff's office today is fiscally sound, accessible and outfitted with new technology."
  12. ^ Sharon Noguchi, "Smith Retains Sheriff's Office", San Jose Mercury News June 8, 2010.
  13. ^ Tracy Seipel, "Santa Clara County sheriff draws legal fire for way she hands out concealed-gun permits", San Jose Mercury News, November 20, 2011.
  14. ^ Scott Herhold, "Why does George Shirakawa Jr. need a bodyguard?", San Jose Mercury News, June 19, 2012.
  15. ^ "School Buddies",, Metro Silicon Valley.
  16. ^ "Ties That Bind",, Metro Silicon Valley.
  17. ^ Tracy Seipel, "Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa Jr., sheriff interviewing for new bodyguard", San Jose Mercury News, August 28, 2012, updated August 30, 2012.
  18. ^ Robert Salonga, "Santa Clara County sheriff: Laurie Smith wins fifth term", San Jose Mercury News, June 3, 2014.
  19. ^ Damian Trujillo, "Santa Clara County Deputies Call Sheriff a 'Bully'", NBC Bay Area, July 15, 2013.
  20. ^ "An Analysis of the Reasons for Termination of Santa Clara County Jail Employees During the Period of 2010 to 2015", Deputy Sheriffs' Association of Santa Clara County, February 20, 2016. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
  21. ^ a b Tracey Kaplan, "What’s up with the sheriff’s race?", San Jose Mercury News, October 10, 2017. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
  22. ^ "2 escaped Santa Clara County jail inmates appear in court", 'ABC 7 News, December 2, 2016. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
  23. ^ Allison Levitsky, "Candidate says sheriff lied about staffing levels before courthouse escape", Palo Alto Daily Post, December 1, 2017. Retrieved February 13, 2018.
  24. ^ Robert Salonga, "Surprise run-off for Santa Clara County sheriff Laurie Smith", San Jose Mercury News, June 6, 2018 [June 5, 2018]. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  25. ^ Robert Salonga, "Santa Clara County sheriff elected to sixth term: John Hirokawa concedes after mounting fiercest challenge to Laurie Smith's 20-year tenure", San Jose Mercury News, November 7, 2018 [November 6, 2018]. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  26. ^ "Concealed guns probe: New records further show influence, power impacts permitting process". Dec 13, 2019. Retrieved Jan 5, 2021.
  27. ^ "Sheriff Campaign Scandal: 4 Indicted in Concealed Carry 'Pay to Play' Scheme". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved 2020-11-21.
  28. ^ "Santa Clara Co. undersheriff indicted in concealed-gun permit corruption probe". The Mercury News. 2020-11-20. Retrieved 2020-11-21.
  29. ^ "Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith will not seek re-election". Gilroy Dispatch | Gilroy, San Martin, CA. 2022-03-11. Retrieved 2022-03-14.

External links[edit]