The idea of a Black police officer still comes off as a social oxymoron for many Black people in the United States owing to the decades of state-sanctioned victimization police departments across the country have been part of.
There is even a ton of historical conclusions that the American police system was originally put together, out of the ruins of slave patrols, to target Black bodies. Against this backdrop, LC “Buckshot” Smith’s fame as literally the very oldest police officer in the country is acknowledged by Black people but not necessarily celebrated.
The point is not to automatically make the issue of Buckshot’s longevity in the force a matter of race relations. However, only about one out of eight people living in Arkansas, where Buckshot lives, is Black. That puts the celebrants of Buckshot’s achievement in a racial perspective. But perhaps, what means more is how the man himself feels about working for nearly 60 years as a cop.
“I feel like I’ll live longer at my age if I keep working,” he said in an interview with a local news station.
Everyone knows Buckshot in Camden, Arkansas and he does know all of them too. He is a cop who has been at the job since Barack Obama, the country’s first Black president, was three years old, to put things into context. In May, he will turn 92 and the nonagenarian has no intention of stepping down.
“I love people. I love to help people,” Buckshot told BBC America. “This gun and the badge don’t make a police officer. You got to want it to do it. Everybody asks me when I am gonna retire, and I tell them, “When the good Lord says so””.
For 46 years, he has been a sheriff’s deputy and putting in at least eight-hour daily shifts. Camden is a city of just a little over 10,000 people and Buckshot takes pride in patrolling the streets and also offering assistance to other police officers.
“Sometimes, he comes and tries to assist us on calls. Even the new guys we have right now, he’s trying to talk to them and you know, just give them a life lesson,” said Jamario Bush of the Camden Police Department.
Last year, Julian Lott, Camden’s mayor, honored Buckshot on the occasion of his 90th birthday. Gestures like that keep Buckshot, who says he “eats a lot of vegetables and not much fast food”, going.