Jeff Piedmonte is president of the Syracuse Police Benevolent Association.
It appears to me, as the president of the Syracuse Police Benevolent Association, that an orchestrated effort to damage the career of Police Officer Vallon Smith is under way on numerous fronts. Protesters call for him to be fired, Councilor Tim Rudd singles him out for working overtime, and now the newspaper writes another article about him (“Syracuse cop, an unwilling symbol of needed police reform, accused again of brutality,” July 17, 2020).
Smith has been an exemplary officer for his 15-year career. Prior to and during his police career, he also served in the military. His life has been dedicated to serving this country and this city.
Smith arrested a Nottingham High School student when the student refused to leave the school grounds and did take him to the ground, as we are trained. This student claims to have suffered a broken elbow but returned to school without any bandage or cast. This arrest was reviewed by the district attorney and determined to be a reasonable arrest. Due to the mother being involved with various protest groups, Smith’s name keeps being raised.
In the matter of the protester interfering and stalking Smith, the officer should have arrested the man for harassment but mischarged him, which was straightened out by the DA. The DA held a press conference and eloquently stated he’d take Smith in a foxhole over the arrestee any day of the week. This protester was stalking Smith for weeks and continued to interfere in his arrests and investigations. This arrestee’s partner in OG’s Against Gun Violence is also one of the main protesters, so again Smith’s name is brought up.
I believe the majority of the protesters calling for Smith to be fired aren’t even aware of the facts of his arrests. They listen to the mother of one suspect and the partner of the other and take their versions as fact. Ironically, Smith assisted on many of the traffic details for the 40 days of protests, and many protesters spoke to him without even realizing it was him. Then they called for him to be fired.
In the incident described in the July 17 article, Smith went to the aid of a community service officer who was screaming for help for a few minutes. The CSO kept yelling over the radio to “send cars” and “I need help”; she sounded desperate. Unfortunately for Smith, he was the one who was able to break free from his post and respond to help the CSO. When the man continued to refuse orders from Smith, he was arrested.
By the sounds of the radio transmission, whichever officer arrived on this call was going to have a problem with this man blocking traffic. After a complaint was lodged, Smith was cleared by the Internal Affairs Division. The Citizen Review Board, of which the above-referenced OG partner is a board member, declined to hold a hearing. I don’t believe it’s coincidental that the same lawyer is suing Smith in all three cases. This is a technique to pressure the city into settling the lawsuits and will allow the lawyer to ask Smith at each trial if he is a named defendant in any other lawsuits. The multiple suits are simply a way to try to assist themselves in arguing the cases.
These three cases all have the same theme to them, but that isn’t Officer Vallon Smith. The theme is that all three arrestees did not comply with the lawful orders of a police officer and they ended up being arrested. As U.S. Attorney William Barr states, “Comply first, complain later.” That is my advice to anyone in a confrontation with any law enforcement officer. Do what the officer is directing you to do, when he/she is directing you to do it and you’ll be fine. If after the encounter you feel there was an issue, then file your complaint. These guidelines will work out in the overwhelming majority of the time.
What people are unaware of is the respect students and teachers had for Smith while he was at the schools. To this day, teachers ask him to return to the school. Smith has mentored numerous minority students who still call him for advice. Smith was invited to the Marine boot camp graduation of one of the students he mentored while another contacted him from his overseas military assignment just last month. Smith did a great job at the high school and when he needed to respond he always did.
I’m proud of the job that Vallon Smith does on a daily basis and he’ll continue to do that job, that way, until he retires. At that time, the City of Syracuse will be down one good officer. To the silent majority, he is a good police officer and a role model for the younger people. To anti-police protesters and critics, he is an easy target.
The good residents of Syracuse can rest assured that Officer Smith will remain on duty and ready to respond when called. To the protesters without the facts, I say, let him do his job.
Related: Syracuse cop, an unwilling symbol of needed police reform, accused again of brutality
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .