1-15-14 WVU police officer auditions for American Idol

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MORGANTOWN — When 7:30 a.m. ticks over, Carlton Smith unpins his West Virginia University police officer badge, removes his flashlight and sets aside pocketsful of gum wrappers and other litter he’s accumulated from campus throughout his work day – or night.

After an eight-hour graveyard shift, Smith gets about three hours of shut eye, which he knows isn’t ideal, but he laughs it off, knowing it’s worth it. When he wakes, his creative and imaginative side comes out.

In song.

“I sing from the time I wake up until the time I go to work,” Smith says. For him, that’s usually sometime before noon until about 11:30 p.m., all the while he goes about his daily activities doing household chores and running errands, with musical accompaniment.

The 26-year-old Buffalo, N.Y., native belted out those gospel, R&B and pop tunes on a 10-hour drive all the way to Boston, Mass. – for his audition on American Idol.

“It would just be a dream come true,” Smith said. “I couldn’t not take that opportunity, so I packed up and hit the road.”

During a long weekend from work, Smith auditioned for the hit reality TV series, which will be aired on Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 8 p.m. on FOX. Celebrity judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. will decide whether Smith can continue on to Hollywood in hopes of willing the ultimate record deal.

“Winning something like this would be life-changing and would validate my passion,” he said. Smith has been singing since he was about 5 years old.

His sister, Akia, garnered attention in church or school for hitting the high notes, and Smith followed in her footsteps.

“I was really, really bad,” he joked. “Absolutely terrible.”

But he pursued his passion through chorus classes and practice, while remaining focused on a more solid, stable career choice: working in criminology.

“I wanted to make my parents proud, and I knew I needed a strong footing,” he said. “I always watched shows like CSI, Law & Order, and I love the satisfaction of putting together that puzzle.”

Smith graduated with a bachelor’s in criminology from WVU in 2009. Shortly after, he began providing campus assistance to area apartment complexes before joining the WVU Police Department.

Eventually, he hopes to continue providing public service on a larger scale – either through his work as a police officer or through song.

“As a police officer, I am helping people by getting to the bottom of something. I am helping find out what happened,” he said.

“And music is one of the biggest ways to make an impact on a large scale. Everyone can relate to it. One person could listen to a song or 100 million people could listen to a song and they would all get something different out of it. Either way, I want to be making a difference. I want to help people, and I want to make a difference.”

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