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DeWitt police officer reinstated after pulling gun on Black teen delivering newspapers

Posted at 2:11 PM, Dec 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-15 18:46:20-05

City of DeWitt police officer Chad Vorce, who was fired in May after pulling a gun on an unarmed Black teenager, has been reinstated after appealing his termination, and the city isn't happy about it.

Vorce, who is white, was fired for a string of policy violations in January while he was off duty. Among other things, he pulled his gun twice on a 19-year-old Black man delivering newspapers for the Lansing State Journal.

"The public should know that the city of Dewitt did not settle this case," the city wrote in a statement. "The city elected to litigate the decision to terminate officer Vorce and exhausted all options available through the arbitration process."

On Jan. 14, Vorce was taking his teenage son to school just after 7 a.m. when he saw a gray van in his neighborhood that he found suspicious. Vorce approached the van in his red pickup truck wearing civilian clothes and asked the driver what he was doing.

According to Vorce, cars had been getting broken into near his home and he thought the driver fit the description of the suspect. The driver responded with "I'm just doing me." Vorce called 911.

Vorce is heard on the 911 call saying there was a "Black male hanging out in the area" who "needs to be checked."

Vorce followed the driver, who later said he put his vehicle in reverse to try to speak with Vorce. But, when he reversed, Vorce did, too. Vorce later said he thought the man was trying to ram him.

Vorce got out of his vehicle and pulled out his gun, pointing it at the driver. He told the 911 operator he was "going to go shots fired if he does it again."

The driver said he saw the gun and left. He would tell investigators he thought was going to get shot and wanted to get to somewhere public.

They ended up at a Sunoco gas station, where Vorce blocked the man's vehicle, identified himself as a police officer and demanded he exit, pointing his gun at him. A city of DeWitt police officer and a Michigan State Police trooper arrived shortly after. They detained the driver.

Though the Clinton County prosecutor declined to pursue criminal charges against Vorce, the city of DeWitt immediately placed him on administrative leave and conducted an internal investigation that determined the policy violations warranted termination.

Vorce quickly appealed. On Dec. 9, arbitrator Thomas Barnes ordered the city to reinstate Vorce with no back pay or accrued benefits for 2021.

In his decision, Barnes wrote that, while it is clear Vorce violated police department policies, "every police officer has made mistakes," and Vorce's "remorse at the arbitration hearing" convinced him that this was an instance of, "poor judgment that hasn't occurred in 18 years" that is "not likely to occur again."

Barnes added that the delivery driver's "unemotional testimony" and lack of disdain for Vorce or the department may have "saved Vorce's skin," and "not in a small way."

The city said in a statement that it is "extremely disappointed in this decision and believes the termination was justified," but added that "arbitrator decisions are binding under the Michigan Uniform Arbitration Act and the city is obligated to comply with the arbitrator's order."

Vorce will have to undergo additional training determined by the city.

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