Oakland man shows gratitude to police

March 26, 2009 6:32:42 PM PDT
An Oakland man is donating his time and talent to make sure the officers attending Friday's service look their best. He's built a special relationship with police over the years, and now he says it's time for him to give back.

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One by one, police officers from all over the East Bay are bringing their boots to Vernon Smith.

Because they know Smith will get them just right for a funeral no officer ever hoped to attend; the one that will honor four of their own.

"It's just something I really truly felt I needed to do," said Smith.

Smith is shining boots for free. Before he set up shop at Oakland's Lincoln Square Barber Salon 10 years ago, the 48-year-old Smith had a small booth inside Oakland police headquarters.

Before that, he was homeless.

Smith says he wanted to give something back to Oakland police for all the support they've given him through the years.

When Smith lived on the streets, it was an Oakland officer who suggested he shine shoes to make a living.

"They kept me out of trouble. I could've gone into trouble so many ways and ah, it's kind of hard. It's just something I have to do," said Smith.

Smith knew Mark Dunakin, one of the patrol officers gunned down last weekend.

But even if he didn't, Smith considers this doing the right thing.

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