Over the past couple of months, DeWitt Police Department Captain Marc Swingle has found himself doing a lot of job-related things for the last time.
Training sessions and meetings are just a couple of the duties in which Swingle, who will retire after 31 years on the force in April, no longer will need to participate.
The feeling, he admits, is bittersweet. However, Swingle knows he is leaving the department in good hands.
“I feel like it’s the right time,” he related. “I feel very confident about the young officers under me; they’re very, very capable and will do a good job filling in any gaps.”
The city is in the process of hiring Swingle’s replacement. The department works with both outside consultants and its own civil service commission to evaluate candidates.
Over the years
As he thinks back on his days with the department — the early days, after being hired by then-police chief Dick Peasley in 1990 — Swingle recalls all the changes he has witnessed firsthand, both in the department and the community.
“Riding around these streets, I saw the town grow,” he said, sitting behind his desk in his office. “I remember when 11th Street had just two lanes; Industrial Street exploded (with new businesses). I think of all the friends I’ve made, both from a professional standpoint and also in the community. It’s been like home to me.”
When Swingle took the job in DeWitt, he was part of a seven-man department. Now, it has grown into a department with 10 full-time officers.
Swingle has worked in three different department buildings — the original, across from DeWitt City Hall on Ninth Street, the second located on Ninth Street just west of Sixth Avenue, and the current building located at 1505 Sixth Ave.
Swingle also has worked under four police chiefs — Peasley, Gene Ellis, Tom Whitten and now —for the last 10 years — Dave Porter.
When Swingle started in DeWitt, officers shared two computers and daily logs were hand-written. Now, officers can do most of their jobs from the laptops in their squad cars, which now also have cameras in them. Other equipment changes include officers carrying Tasers, and keeping rifles in their squad cars.
Changes in how the department connects with the community also have come about. Swingle said he is thankful for those changes and credits them for establishing a more positive and open relationship between the department and the residents it serves.
“When Gene Ellis came in, we started doing a lot of community-oriented policing,” he noted. “The school resource officer program began, as well as the Citizens Police Academy and National Night Out.
“We were never out of our cars, and when the bike program started, under Chief Peasley, it helped us to build a relationship with the community. Those kinds of changes definitely were noticeable … we received more support from the community and the city government. For the Citizens Police Academy, we recruited the mayor and city employees. It was educational for both sides. We got to find out what concerns were in the community, and they got to see what needs we had.”
Soon, residents began putting names to the faces of the officers and getting to know them. Swingle said the result of fostering that connection allowed for more trust on behalf of residents.
The early days
When he first accepted the job, Swingle confesses he knew DeWitt was located north of Davenport — and not much else about the town. While hunting with his brother as a kid, he remembers driving through DeWitt or stopping for breakfast or a snack at one of the local gas stations.
But, it’s where his journey led him, and it was a journey that ended with a profession that — at first, anyway — wasn’t exactly on his radar.
After graduating from Davenport West High School in 1984, Swingle entered the Army Reserves and was with the 339th Military Police Company in Davenport for six years.
He also was enrolled as a student at St. Ambrose University, where, initially, he intended to gain the education necessary to pursue a career in teaching.
However, after some careful consideration, Swingle decided since he already had been a part of the Military Police Company, he might as well become a police officer instead.
“It made sense to me,” he related. “But I wondered, ‘Am I making the right decision?’ I was going into a profession that would require me to work nights, weekends and holidays.”
Despite the odd hours and having to put in the hard work and earn the seniority to have his choice of vacation time and a more preferred work schedule, the job was the perfect fit for Swingle.
He has the accolades to prove it, too.
In 2007, Swingle received a Sullivan Brothers Medal of Valor for heroism from Gov. Chet Culver at the State Capitol. He earned the honor in the fall of 2006, when he prevented an elderly man from taking his own life.
In November 2012, Swingle was promoted to police captain, following the retirement of Capt. Mike Osmun. Swingle praised Osmun as being one of his mentors in the department, together with now-retired and long-time friend Sgt. Greg Waugh.
Swingle also made extensive efforts to to make the DeWitt Police Department CALEA accredited.
CALEA, or the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, is a credentialing authority established to improve the delivery of public safety services by maintaining a particular body of standards.
“It’s basically a system of checks and balances,” Swingle explained. “We have general orders and policies in place, but (CALEA) makes sure we follow them.”
To become accredited requires three years of tedious, time-consuming work.
It’s a process that began under Whitten, but when he took another job in New Mexico just 10 months after being hired, the process came to a halt.
However, when Porter was hired, he was eager to get things up and going again, Swingle said.
Swingle was appointed as the department’s CALEA administrator in August 2013. DeWitt became one of the smallest, if not the smallest, agency in the state to be CALEA accredited, he said.
“When we were doing it, I felt very overwhelmed,” Swingle shared. “Trying to be a captain at the time and take care of all my normal responsibilities and go through this process was difficult. But now, we have everything streamlined. (Department administrator) Lori Rhodes is now the accreditation administrator, and it has made things a lot easier.”
When a police officer considers retirement, what he or she also has to consider is when can they collect their pension and how much will be there.
In October 2020, Swingle had been on the department for 30 years and was 55 years old. Given that the winter months often are slow, he decided to stay on until spring and get in an extra year.
While he felt the time had come to leave the department, Swingle won’t necessarily be taking it easy during retirement.
About six years ago, together with his wife, Anji, Swingle purchased a commercial cleaning business.
“It’s kind of been her baby,” he related. “But she told me, ‘Whenever you retire, I’ll put you to work.’”
Their son and daughter both also work for the company, and Swingle’s involvement officially will make it a family business.
Swingle said he is thankful to the chiefs under whom he has served and have taught him a great deal. Swingle said he also feels grateful to have fostered so many good relationships with people in the DeWitt area and within the law enforcement profession.
“The community has been great,” Swingle shared. “Other agencies in the community — the Camanche Police Department, Clinton Police Department and Clinton Sheriff’s Office. I’ve been able to develop relationships with business owners within the community … it’s been really great.
“It’s scary, too. You do something day in and day out for 31 years, and suddenly you’re not doing it anymore. But it’s not who I am; it’s what I did. I’ll be a civilian, and it’ll be different, but it’ll be good, too.”