Our careers never overlapped; he retired in April 1979 and I joined the VPD in May 1979. But I knew of him prior to joining the VPD because a documentary was produced by the National Film Board chronicling Bernie’s unconventional but effective methods of policing and his strong commitment towards keeping his beat safe. The film received an Academy Award nomination. I have watched it many times because when I was a School Liaison officer, I would show it to high school kids who wanted to learn more about policing. 

In my first few years of policing, many senior officers would talk about Bernie with admiration and respect. He was the best-known VPD officer of his time.

I spent more time with Bernie the past few years, as he was a regular fixture at retired VPD officer events. Bernie had a razor-sharp wit and a photographic memory. Last year, he spoke at a Ceremonial Unit dinner. He didn’t use notes because of his failing eyesight and he shared many tales of his policing days. At the end of his talk, he sang with perfect pitch and in a deep baritone voice a song he wrote about police officers who serve on the front lines. His performance was so impressive, we decided to record Bernie singing his composition a few weeks later. I stood with Bernie at a fundraiser where this recording was shown to the large crowd. You could see the pride he felt when his song of appreciation for his fellow police officers was so well received.   

A VPD tradition on Remembrance Day is to form up at 26th and Main with our Pipe Band to march to the Army Navy and Air Force Veterans club a few blocks away. VPD officers who have served in our military join us, and a regular fixture at this march was Bernie Smith who served in France in World War II.  Sadly, this past November 11th was missing a key participant, as Bernie was in the hospital.   

On behalf of the women and men of the VPD, our thoughts go out to Bernie’s family, including his son, Larry Smith, who is a retired VPD Inspector.