Dewitt, Michigan – A Michigan police officer who was fired from the DeWitt Police Department for pulling a gun on a newspaper delivery driver earlier this year has been reinstated.
The incident that led to officer Chad Vorce’s termination occurred on January 14 when Vorce saw a Black man sitting in a van outside his home in DeWitt. Vorce, an 18-year veteran with the department, approached the man and asked him what he was doing. According to police reports, the man, who turned out to be a newspaper delivery man, told Vorce, “I’m just doing me.”
Unsatisfied with the response, Vorce called 911 and reported that he had seen a “suspicious” Black male parked in a van near his home.
“There’s a Black male hanging out in the area. He said he’s, ‘just doing me’ and he needs to be checked,” Vorce told 911 operators.
The officer then began to follow the man, pulling his gun on him twice and chasing him to a gas station down the road where he got out of his truck and approached the van with his gun out, police reports say.
The delivery driver later told police that when he realized Vorce was following him, he backed up to try and talk to him, however, Vorce backed up as well. He said this occurred several times. Vorce told police he thought the driver was trying to ram him with his van when he backed up.
“I’m gonna go shots fired if he does it again,” Vorce told dispatch after one of the times the driver backed up. “This one’s going to turn out really bad if someone doesn’t get here now.”
The delivery driver told police he drove out of the neighborhood to a nearby gas station after Vorce pointed a gun at him. He told officers he didn’t know Vorce was a police officer because the off-duty officer had no visible identification, was not wearing a police uniform, and was driving his personal vehicle.
Vorce followed the driver to the gas station. The officer told investigators that he exited his truck, identified himself as a police officer and pointed his gun at the driver, and told him to stop.
According to a witness’ statement to police, Vorce told the driver he was going to shoot him. The witness said if other officers had not shown up and acted professionally, he believes the driver would have been shot.
When two on-duty police officers arrived at the gas station, the situation was deescalated. The 19-year-old was in the neighborhood doing his job – delivering newspapers.
Shortly after the encounter, Vorce emailed the newspaper the driver worked for and asked that the driver be put on a different route “for my safety and the safety of my family.” The driver quit his route less than a month later.
After an internal investigation, Vorce was officially terminated from the DeWitt Police Department in May for operating outside of his jurisdiction, using excessive force, failing to de-escalate the situation, having an inappropriate tone and demeanor, and violating the department’s social media policy.
“Vorce’s conduct and behavior on the morning of 01/14/21 brought disrespect to himself and the DeWitt City Police Department,” officials noted in the internal investigation.
Vorce was reinstated to the department by arbitrator Thomas Barnes this month. Barnes cited mitigating factors, including Vorce’s clean record and lack of past citizen complaints. He wrote in his decision that while Vorce’s actions did have an impact on the department, it wasn’t to a degree that it “otherwise undermined or significantly impaired the otherwise good reputation of the department.”
Barnes also noted that Vorce “testified he was not a racist and was upset by any inference that he was.”
The DeWitt City Police Department, which had no choice but to reinstate Vorce, issued a statement saying that they were “extremely disappointed” with the decision.
“The public should know that the City of Dewitt did not settle this case,” the statement said, according to the State Journal. “The City elected to litigate the decision to terminate Officer Vorce and exhausted all options available through the arbitration process.”