Forty years of doing anything is worth celebrating.
When you are like John Swick and you’ve spent four decades serving as a law enforcement officer in Niagara County, that’s a notable accomplishment, indeed.
Swick marked 40 years on the job with Middleport Police Department on Tuesday. Friends, family members, colleagues and village residents gave him a standing ovation Monday night, at a celebratory reception at the Middleport fire hall.
Chief Swick came a long way since his first day at MPD, when he was a 19-year-old part-time police officer.
At the time, he also clerked full-time at Chapman’s Market, a job he confessed to thoroughly enjoying during an interview with the Union-Sun & Journal last week.
“I loved working in a grocery store,” Swick said. “If I could’ve made a living doing that, I’d have done that. You didn’t make any enemies. It was, ‘ma’am, can I carry out your groceries,’ not ‘ma’am, I gotta write you a ticket.’”
By 1982, Swick secured full-time status with MPD, a move that allowed him to leave his grocery bagging days behind.
For seven years, Officer Swick worked the midnight shift, an assignment that had him handing out tickets to drunk drivers, a role in which he took “great pride” as he felt it made the roads safer.
Remarkably, at age 27, Swick moved up to the top post at MPD. He has been Middleport’s police chief ever since.
Swick freely acknowledges his tenure hasn’t been animated with high-profile criminal investigations like people see on TV. Year after year, the job has had him going after small-time crime, domestic issues and traffic-related incidents.
In his time as chief, Swick said there has only been one bank robbery in the village — and he missed it because he happened to be on vacation that week.
Even so, there’s no such thing as “easy” police work in any size jurisdiction, especially in an era of mass shootings and incidents of terrorism. Although Swick does not consider himself an “investigator,” he has been involved in the investigation of serious crimes including child molestation and rape.
But when asked to identify the high point or most exciting development in his career to date, Swick didn’t cite any of those cases, he recalled his role in the rescue of several children from a burning apartment on Telegraph Road in 2014.
Swick says he’s a “street cop” at heart and that outlook works well for him, MPD and the village as a whole.
“In the bigger departments, when you become chief, you don’t do the cop things anymore,” he said. “I have to do it all when I’m here and no one else is working; that has kept it fresh. I think the bigger chiefs, they get burned out because they really aren’t police anymore, they’re just policing the police, and that’s not fun and it’s not adventurous.”
His career in law enforcement has been an adventure in many ways for Swick, who says he’s not looking to retire just yet. After all these years, he still enjoys his work.
Especially at a time when police officers aren’t always represented in the most favorable light, a 40-year street cop who can keep the peace with a smile on his face and decency in his heart is a model for the ages.