Sturgis chief steps down amid crash investigation

Southwest Michigan

STURGIS, Mich. (WOOD) — The chief of the Sturgis Department of Public Safety has stepped down as he’s being investigated in a drunken driving crash that happened earlier this month.

The Sturgis City Commission voted to accept Geoffrey Smith’s resignation at Wednesday night’s meeting.

The commission met behind closed doors where they worked out the terms of the deal for 46-year-old Smith to purchase one year of service credit following his resignation allowing him to receive his full pension benefit, according to City manager Mike Hughes. 

Smith was involved in the head-on crash on Aug. 15 just after 11 p.m.

News 8 obtained body camera video from responding officers and the 911 calls that went out through a Freedom of Information Act Request.

The first 911 calls came in around 11:10 p.m.

“Are you OK? I think he’s intoxicated,” the first caller said.

“No. I’m not,” a male voice was heard saying in the background.  

“Hi. There’s been a car crash in front of my house,” a second caller said. “Two cars were parked and he just crashed right into them.” 

When Sturgis officers arrived at the scene, they found it was their boss sitting on the grass. 

A booking photo of Geoffrey Smith. (Courtesy: St. Joseph County Jail)

Body camera video shows that officers called for an outside department to take over the investigation.

“It’s going to have to be county or state that does it,” one officer was heard saying in the body camera video.

“I’ll just have you stand at the back of my car and we’ll get you checked out,” was also said by an officer in the video.

In the video, Smith responded, “PBT (preliminary breath test) me. I can’t do standardized anyway, so just PBT me.”

According to jail records, Smith was admitted to the county jail around 2:11 a.m. on Aug. 16 and was released by 8 a.m.

A woman News 8 spoke with who lives near the crash scene on Lakeview Avenue says she saw Smith’s vehicle driving fast and then swerve across the opposite lane and smash head-on into a truck parked in front of her home.

One of the vehicles damaged in a crash involving Sturgis Public Safety Director Geoffrey Smith. (Aug. 17, 2020)

The crash’s impact pushed the truck back, smashing the car behind and then a third car, all of which were allegedly parked at least 6 feet apart. 

One of the three people whose vehicles were totaled out in the crash told News 8 that the resignation is a good step, but she wants to see justice in the courts. 

He was scheduled to be before a judge Thursday for an arraignment, but that judge has decided to recuse himself, meaning the arraignment will be delayed. 

In 2018 Smith was named vice president of the Police Chiefs Association and in June he was recognized by the Sturgis City Commission for rescuing three people from a burning house on June 13. 

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