Arbitrator Reinstates Michigan Cop Who Pulled Gun on Black Teen Delivering Newspapers Because He ‘Learned His Lesson’ and the Firing Was ‘Undoubtedly’ Devastating

A DeWitt police officer was reinstated less than a year after being fired for pulling his firearm out on a Black newspaper delivery driver outside his jurisdiction earlier this year. 

Chad Vorce, an 18-year veteran of the department, has been allowed to return to the force after pulling a gun out twice on 19-year-old Alexander Hamilton, who was parked near Vorce’s DeWitt Township home in the predawn hours of Jan. 14.

Screenshot of on-duty officers on the scene after an off-duty officer confronted a teen delivering newspapers

The officer was reinstated by arbitrator Thomas Barnes, citing that while the cop’s action did affect the department, it wasn’t to the point that it “otherwise undermined or significantly impaired the otherwise good reputation of the department,” WLNS reported.

“Based on Grievant’s convincing testimony that he has learned his lesson; his genuine demonstration of remorse; the fact that he has taken corrective measures; along with the devastating effect this disciplinary action has undoubtedly had on his life, there is sufficient evidence that the Grievant has rehabilitated so that the city can operate with reasonable assurance that the conduct will not be repeated,” Barnes wrote.

However, the department officials beg to differ. In a statement to the outlet, they wrote that they were “extremely disappointed” in the choice to give Vorce back his job and stand by their decision to terminate the officer.

Still, the city said the arbitrator’s decisions are binding under the Michigan Uniform Arbitration Act and that the city must comply with the orders. 

“The public should know that the City of Dewitt did not settle this case,” the statement read. “The City elected to litigate the decision to terminate Officer Vorce and exhausted all options available through the arbitration process.”

Last May, Vorce was fired for several factors, including using excessive force and failing to de-escalate a situation as he confronted Hamilton.

The latter had been delivering newspapers for the Lansing State Journal when Vorce confronted him because he supposedly fit the description of a suspect behind a string of recent break-ins. “I thought it was him because he fits the same description, black hoodie… Fricken black guy,” Vorce said at the time. 

Vorce, who was not in uniform during the encounter, began following Hamilton’s minivan after he rebuffed Vorce’s questions about why he was in the neighborhood — “I’m just doing me,” he said as he was interrupted while putting newspapers in bags — and pulled a gun on the teen when Hamilton stopped in the street to see why he was being tailed.

When Hamilton took off the off-duty cop followed him to a nearby gas station. Once there the teen exited his vehicle to try to talk to the off-duty officer, but Vorce pulled his gun out on him again. The two began arguing there.

A DeWitt police officer and a Michigan State Police trooper arrived shortly afterward, and Hamilton was detained until the state police sorted out that Vorce instigated the confrontation. No charges were pursued by Hamilton or Vorce.

For Vorce’s part, he testified he was “upset to his stomach and wished he had handled the situation better.” Adding, that he realized how things could have gone “tragically wrong.”

The arbitrator further supported his decision to reinstate Vorce saying, “It’s not likely to occur again given [Vorce’s] recognition of what he did wrong. [Vorce] testified he was not a racist and was upset by any inference that he was. … [He] acknowledged he had multiple opportunities to simply drive away and let the on duty officers take care of the delivery driver.”

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