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Concord Says Farewell to Chief Swanger
After a 36-year career in law enforcement and nine years as Chief of Police for the City of Concord, Chief Guy Swanger officially retired on April 2, 2020. His colleagues and the community bid him farewell as he begins the next chapter of his life, which will include doing more of what he loves – reading, traveling with his wife, Lora, and woodwork.
As he prepared to depart the City, we asked Chief Swanger about his time in Concord.
What has been your proudest accomplishment as Chief?
GS: I love our relationship with the community. You can go to a variety of police departments across this country but I’ve never been in an organization whose DNA was around customer service toward this community. In Concord I saw it universally across the city, the relationships with the whole community, including our immigrant and our minority communities, are just so impressive. I think we have set an example of how we really want to deliver this elite level of service, and I think the community reciprocates.
What is the biggest challenge your department currently faces?
GS: The biggest challenge right now facing so many police departments is the recruitment of individuals for this profession. You have this incredibly low unemployment rate. You have this very demanding occupation that forces you to work around the clock, to deal with traumatic incidents every single day, and to go find individuals who have that kind of compassion and intellectual ability to address problems and work in partnership with a variety of groups to address these issues is very difficult today.
What is the greatest lesson you have learned as Chief of this department?
GS: I think the greatest lesson I have learned is that this job is not easy. I had a mentor tell me once, “Until you’re sitting in that chair and it’s just you, you have no idea what goes on and the dynamics that take place.” You realize that one decision made by one of your employees could be the discussion nationally. So how do you get officers ready to minimize those types of decisions that could go bad? The preparation and development of staff and finding technology that improves your service level all while staying in this constrained budget is critical.
The second thing I’ve learned is that police departments don’t work in a vacuum. When schools are operating at their highest level, and businesses are moving into your community, and when parks and recreation activity is so robust and you have a community that’s very involved in physical activities, and when the roads are clean and flat and lights are working, the police department’s job is easier.
Do you have any advice for Concord’s next Chief of Police?
GS: I think this next Chief should set high expectations on service delivery and advancement. You’ll be surprised at how the group of individuals who work for the City meet those expectations. I believe we’re at that cusp, at that tipping point where people believe we can demand the best. I’d tell the next chief, don’t be afraid to do that. Set high expectations. Make this place reflective of how you visualize police services. Expect the best, because I think they’ll give it to you.
Editor’s note: Concord’s next Chief of Police, Mark Bustillos, is scheduled to be sworn in on Monday, April 6, 2020. This interview with Chief Swanger was conducted on January 22, 2020.