SEBEKA, Minn. (WCCO) — In Sebeka, a town of just 700 people, politics and personalities are hard to cover up. And there are no hiding people’s feelings for Chief of Police Eric Swenson.
Just ask Sylvia Wulf, who led the petition drive to push for the city council to take action against the chief.
“How could somebody be so irresponsible and show such poor judgment?” said Wulf.
The 45-year-old Swenson is as colorful as he is controversial. In his only interview since coming under fire the chief said, “I will admit, I am a cowboy sometimes.”
Swenson says he keeps tabs on the town his way — even if it rubs some the wrong way.
“Yeah, I got some enemies,” said Wulf.
However, lately, some here in this Wadena County community are saying that Swenson’s style is both unprofessional and embarrassing.
It was just last March when a Minnesota Conservation officer caught Swenson in a car with a woman, in Swenson’s words, “getting busy.”
To that embarrassing moment, the chief responded, “if it had been me, I’d never have mentioned a word of it. So what?”
In June, Swenson was coming out of a downtown bar when he responded to a call of a domestic disturbance nearby. Another deputy with Wadena County also responded to the call and detected alcohol on Swenson’s breath.
The official report of the call included Swenson’s condition. The chief argued, “what would you want? Me do nothing when I had this call in my own town, really?”
And last month, he reported SWAT ammunition missing from his home. Investigators looking into the possible theft said the chief’s 9-year-old son may have been playing with it in the backyard.
“Not so,” said Swenson, who found it three days later, inside his home in a box.
“There was no loaded gun, no AR-15, except a magazine for one,” said Swenson. When pressed further if he felt his son was in any danger from the misplaced items, Eric Swenson replied, “no, never was.”
It was that particular incident that prompted the local petition drive against the chief.
Sylvia Wulf said she passed the petition around and got 37 signatures in four hours.
Eric Swenson called it a joke and saidsarcastically, “they should have gotten 500.”
Complaints of Chief Swenson’s job performance make for interesting reading in the local papers. Yet, despite a petition drive to reprimand the chief, he’s broken no laws and that puts the city council in a delicate position.
However, the council did punish the chief with seven days off duty without pay. Swenson called that “plenty harsh,” but he vows to keep doing the job, his way.
When asked if he feels like he has a target on his back, Swenson responded, “absolutely, I do and I don’t know what to do about it.”