YPD says goodbye to two longtime officers
By Joe Gorman
One constant in the world of law enforcement is change, and the Youngstown Police Department has seen plenty of it the past two days.
Thursday, the department swore in three patrolmen who began their in-service training. Friday, the department said farewell to two officers who have more than 60 years combined experience: Detective Sgt. Charles Swanson and Patrolman Rick Baldwin.
Both served in the military and were sworn in on the same day in 1986. Both served the department during some of the city’s darkest times, the 1990s, when the city recorded more than 500 homicides and it was not uncommon to answer calls for homicides twice in one shift.
Both are also known by their nicknames: Swanson is dubbed “Swannie,” and Baldwin goes by “Big Daddy.”
Swanson served in the Air Force Security Police before joining the department, and Baldwin served in the Marine Corps for seven years then in then Army National Guard and did a stint in the Middle East during Operation Desert Storm. Swanson also has written a book, “Lights, Sirens and Doughnuts,” about faith and police work.
Baldwin served on the Violent Crimes Task Force, the Crisis Intervention Team and the department’s own SWAT team before working a beat on the South Side for several years.
Swanson was a patrolman, supervisor, spent time in the detective bureau and the Family Services Unit and has spent the past couple of years running the 911 Center. Chief Robin Lees also credited Swanson with his work in strengthening the department’s Chaplain Corps. Because of that work, Lees said Swanson has been to every Increase the Peace Rally in the city sponsored by the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence program and is often very popular as he gives children a ride on one of the department’s ATVs and allows them to work the lights and sirens.
Swanson and Baldwin said they have wanted to be police officers as long as they could remember because they thought it was one of the best ways they could help people. Both also credited their military background as a big help in learning how to do the job.
Both also said they were focused more on helping people and defusing situations rather than by simply arresting people.
“The one thing I learned in law enforcement very early is you’re not there to arrest people. You’re a problem solver,” Swanson said. “Sometimes you have to arrest someone to solve a problem, but your main job is to solve the problem.”
“I always wanted to help people – not just enforce the law but to help them,” Baldwin said.
Swanson said one of the things he will always remember is the time while on patrol he caught several men who just broke into the old Sims Drugs at Mahoning and Hazelwood avenues. Baldwin said a memory that stands out for him is helping to catch five suspects in a murder during the 1990s when he was on the violent-crimes task force.
“It was really active,” Baldwin said of the ’90s.
Swanson said the biggest change he has seen since he started is the increase in technology. Baldwin said there are a lot less people wanted on warrants now than when he was serving them in the 90s.
Lees had high praise for both men, saying that Baldwin was an invaluable asset to the SWAT team because of his military training, which influenced the entire way he did his job.
“Rick has always been one of the fellows you can count on in difficult situations,” Lees said.
Lees also lauded Swanson’s work with the Chaplain Corps, saying that his contacts with area clergy make sure there are always chaplains available to help the department.
“Sgt. Swanson made sure we continued to recruit members of the clergy to have them involved with our officers,” Lees said.