Calvin College Chimes

Former campus safety officer charged with misdemeanor

The+incident+occurred+last+year+on+Nov.+26.+Photo+courtesy+Calvin+communications+and+marketing.
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Former campus safety officer charged with misdemeanor

The incident occurred last year on Nov. 26. Photo courtesy Calvin communications and marketing.

The incident occurred last year on Nov. 26. Photo courtesy Calvin communications and marketing.

Stephen Norregaard

The incident occurred last year on Nov. 26. Photo courtesy Calvin communications and marketing.

Stephen Norregaard

Stephen Norregaard

The incident occurred last year on Nov. 26. Photo courtesy Calvin communications and marketing.

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Lee Swafford, a former Calvin campus safety officer, was arrested and charged with reckless use of a firearm on Wednesday after an incident on Calvin’s campus last November.

On the morning of Nov. 26, Swafford, who was on duty, used his gun while interacting with a visitor to campus. Though he did not fire the weapon, a review of his conduct determined that his actions were not in line with Calvin’s firearms policies.

After a routine review of Swafford’s body camera footage, Bill Corner, director of campus safety, informed Sarah Visser, vice president for student life, of the incident. The college immediately put Swafford on administrative leave, and his employment was terminated on Dec. 6 following an investigation.

Calvin also released all information about the case to the Grand Rapids Police Department, which conducted a criminal investigation. On Feb. 15, the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office charged Swafford with a misdemeanor.

Calvin is not revealing further information about the nature of the incident in order to protect the confidentiality of the investigation and the victim’s privacy.

“I feel very protective of this person,” President Michael Le Roy said. “This person is a victim here, and I don’t want to do anything that makes it harder for this person by disclosing personal information.”

The victim was not a Calvin student, staff member or faculty member. Le Roy said that they had had “no prior contact with the college at all to my knowledge.”

Le Roy sent a letter via email to students, staff and faculty on Wednesday afternoon explaining the events leading up to Swafford’s charge and how the college had responded.

“This situation is deeply disappointing to me and to all members of our campus community,” Le Roy said in the statement. “I understand that such an incident occurring on our campus can shake our confidence in those who are here to protect us.”

Le Roy cited the body cameras, which campus safety started using in September 2014, as an important way to provide accountability for campus safety officers:

“One of the things I commend our department for is that they were very early adopters of this camera system to approve accountability and performance of our officers,” Le Roy said.

Campus safety policy requires officers to “record all enforcement contacts” with their body cameras. These include possible alcohol and drug violations, theft or property damage investigations, threatening or assaultive behavior investigations, traffic stops and contacts with suspicious persons.

After the incident, campus safety debriefed with all their officers and reviewed their policies.

“Our campus safety staff associated with this who reviewed this situation would all agree that this does not meet the standards of expected behavior and appropriate conduct,” said Le Roy.

Calvin has not yet hired a replacement for Swafford. Campus safety has been using temporary staff to fill all their shifts.

In his letter, Le Roy said that students who have further questions or concerns about this situation should talk to Sarah Visser or Michelle Loyd-Paige, executive associate for diversity and inclusion.

“It was disappointing that it occurred and deeply troubling that it occurred,” said Le Roy. “[But] by all reviews that we’ve done internally … our accountability systems worked.”

Chimes has previously covered campus safety’s firearms policies in a feature story.

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