Seattle police-union president Ron Smith has come under sharp criticism by his own members for collaborating with Seattle’s new police chief, but he insists he will continue to do “the right thing.”

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During his meetings with officers he represents as the leader of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, Detective Ron Smith has become all too familiar with criticism of his dealings with department leadership.

“Bootlicker” is how one officer described his relationship with Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole at a guild meeting earlier this spring.

In response to those kinds of sentiments, Smith pulls out his iPhone to show a running tally of his collaborations with O’Toole and how their friendly relationship works to the benefit of his members.

It has meant getting more rifles to patrol officers for protection on the streets; getting officers extra money from the city to help pay for the department’s new uniforms; and getting the time shortened that officers spend on administrative leave while the department investigates shootings involving their use of lethal force.

“I would be a fool to waste the opportunity to try and work with the very first police chief in decades willing to sit down with labor. When she pisses me off, or does something wrong, I’ll be the first to stand up against her,” Smith said in a wide-ranging interview in which he discussed the tricky road he must navigate at a time the department is under a federal consent decree to curb excessive force and biased policing.

“My predecessor, and those before him, had no opportunity to work with the chiefs of police because they marginalized the union. They were forced to do nothing other than file grievances and unfair labor practices,” Smith, 49, said. “Chief O’Toole has a different way of doing business; she is collaborative.”

O’Toole, when asked about the new tenor since she became chief in June, said she’s aware of “the old-school mentality” that “contentious labor relations” should be the norm.

“There will always be a professional tension in the relationship; it doesn’t mean it has to be contentious,” O’Toole said. “At the end of the day, we want the same thing: to restore pride and get through the consent decree.”

Smith knows officers are frustrated by all the changes being imposed as part of the 2012 agreement between the city and Department of Justice to adopt sweeping reforms. His most important role over his three-year term, he said, is to “unite this membership and try to keep encouragement going that we will get through this consent decree.”

“What I’ve learned is the rank-and-file are deeply impacted by these changing policies. They feel under attack from every corner all the time,” Smith said. “I believe we all want the same thing. We all want a better police department down the road, and I believe we all want to be done with the consent decree.”

Just over a year ago, Smith left his position as a detective in the department’s major crimes unit to take over as the newly elected president of the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild, known as SPOG, which represents more than 1,200 officers and sergeants.

Smith was no stranger to union activity; he had been the firebrand editor of the union’s newspaper “The Guardian.” Among some of his most controversial columns was one suggesting that Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes be arrested after his office brought an assault charge in 2011 against an officer who kicked a teenage boy during an undercover operation. The charge was later dropped when an outside expert altered his opinion on the officer’s action.

Smith, who also served as SPOG’s secretary-treasurer, was mentored by former SPOG President Rich O’Neill, a sergeant notorious for blacklisting media members and having a tumultuous relationship with city leaders.

Smith’s union leadership has been vastly different, surprising many observers.

O’Neill isn’t bothered by that.

In a column that ran on the front page of “The Guardian” last month, O’Neill told the rank-and-file he has let Smith “forge his own way,” admitting that “President Smith has a style that was different than mine.”

“He has already established a better working relationship with the Chief and some of the politicians than I ever enjoyed,” O’Neill wrote in the column titled “This is the time for unity.”

“You may disagree with his style, but no one should ever question Ron Smith’s motives. The guy bleeds blue!” O’Neill wrote.

In addition to having a better relationship with the mayor and chief of police, Smith has established stronger ties with the news media than O’Neill. He uses SPOG’s Twitter account to compliment reporters on stories.

He also employs Twitter, as well as Facebook, to post his support for law enforcement on police issues nationwide, share the guild’s political stances and compliment officers.

While a strong believer in using social media to convey the guild’s message, his view on how it should be used by officers is another story.

Smith said he’s warned officers who share politically charged perspectives on their personal social-media pages that they need to be “mindful” of what they say. He has explained to them that officers’ rights are “somewhat modified by our relationship with the government.”

In February, Smith drew attention when he wrote on the guild’s Facebook page that officers need “to adapt to societal expectations.”

Going further, he later explained to The Stranger newspaper that officers who have a problem with the politics in Seattle had the option to “leave and go to a place that serves your worldview.”

Smith worked with O’Toole to create a social-media policy for officers. Under the policy that went into effect on March 1, department employees may express themselves as private citizens on social-media sites but can’t “make, share, or comment in support” of postings containing harassment, threats of violence, disparaging language or are reckless toward public safety.

Smith admits to his own social-media failing before the policy was written, when he joined in on another officer’s Facebook commentary string criticizing Sgt. Sean Whitcomb, who oversees the department’s media-relations section, and a civilian employee in the unit.

Smith said he hoped the two would “meet their destiny.”

Whitcomb filed a complaint with the department’s Office of Professional Accountability. Smith maintained he didn’t mean any physical threat and Whitcomb’s complaint was deemed unfounded.

But Smith now says “looking back in hindsight, I can see how somebody may have been offended.”

“I had no intent in offending anyone,” he said.

Smith said he tells officers “don’t type something on a department computer, a department cellphone or say it on a department in-car video that you don’t want to see on the front page of The Seattle Times or The Stranger.”

“There’s good police work being done, but it’s overshadowed by things in the media,” Smith added.

Reflecting on the first year of his term, Smith said he has “mellowed.”

“You don’t make decisions by putting your finger in the air. Do the right thing regardless of who is going to be happy or who is going to be mad,” he said.

Smith said that he has learned that being at the top of an organization is “just as much of an honor and a challenge I knew it to be. Time goes by fast. A year goes by very fast.”

Once the hard-charging officer accused of aggravated assault after shooting an attacker while attending a motorcycle rally in South Dakota before the case was dropped, Smith said he no longer rides and instead spends much of his time focusing on his 6-year-old daughter.

On free nights at home with his family, he directs his attention on his current obsession, cooking.

“I feel as though I have evolved as a man, and I have opened my mind up to different perspectives. I’m comfortable in my own skin, where I’m at in my life. Years ago I probably wasn’t as mature,” Smith said.