A Michigan deputy filed a grievance with the Kalamazoo County Police Officers Labor Association in January after Kalamazoo County Sheriff Rick Fuller asked him to turn in his firearm, badge and other police equipment.
Deputy Thomas Swafford contends Fuller’s actions are “discriminatory and retaliatory” against Swafford’s decision to run against Fuller in the August 2016 Democratic primary election.
According to MLive, Fuller’s motives are founded in trust issues and have nothing to do with the campaign.
“Sheriff Fuller no longer has the necessary trust to make him willing to invest in the law enforcement abilities of Corrections Deputy Thomas Swafford,” Undersheriff Paul Matyas said in response to the grievance.
Due to the Sheriff’s positional authority, he doesn’t have to explain the motives behind his decision.
“The Office of the Sheriff is a constitutional position, and the sheriff has the discretion regarding whom he swears in as deputy,” Matyas said.
MLive reports Fuller has declined to comment, saying it was a personnel matter.
Swafford, 52, appears on paper to be a model officer. His career spans more than 15 years back to his time in the sheriff’s office’s reserve division in 2002. He oversaw the county reserve division’s training academy, then at the Village of Richland’s police department and as a dispatcher in the sheriff’s office, before being hired as a corrections officer in 2010.
Swafford’s current evaluation doesn’t mention his bid for the sheriff’s seat, but does offer a glimpse into his work ethic and dedication to position.
“Swafford has always been very respectful and professional when dealing with other staff members,” an excerpt of the evaluation reads. “(He) reacts well under pressure, motivates others to perform well, and maintains the use of the chain of command within the department.”
Swafford tells MLive there is only one possible motive for Fuller’s decision — retribution based solely on his position to seek the sheriff’s job.
“The only thing I can think of (explaining the lack of trust) is that (Fuller) was upset I ran against him,” he said. “I thought we had a very clean campaign. I don’t really know why he’s that upset, if that is the reason. As far as work goes, I’m continuing to do a professional job. That isn’t going to change.”
Swafford remains an employee of the sheriff’s office at the same pay level, but does not have the power to make arrests. The grievance requests Fuller to restore Swafford’s police power and give him full back pay, benefits, wages and salaries.
Rod Rought, president of the labor association, declined to comment on the status of the grievance, which was obtained in addition to Swafford’s personnel file through a Freedom of Information Act request. The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Deputies Association in January sent a demand for arbitration letter to the sheriff’s department and Kalamazoo County.
In 2013 it was noted in Swafford’s performance review that he should seek to advance to sergeant. However, Swafford told MLive he can’t be promoted without the restoration of his police powers.
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