SHELBY – The School Resource Officer (SRO) for Shelby City Schools will have his coaching and SRO status reviewed after an incident was brought to the attention of the Shelby Police Department.
Officer Keith Swisher was placed on paid administrative leave by the Shelby Police Department and suspended from his coaching duties by Shelby City Schools after a teacher reported overhearing a conversation between two students that Swisher had walked through the girls' locker room at the Field House while players were present, according to Shelby Police Chief Lance Combs.
After both a criminal and internal investigation was conducted, Swisher was disciplined and has been reinstated to full duty with the Shelby Police Department. However, his status with the Shelby City Schools remains in limbo.
"At this time Officer Swisher has not resumed his role as the SRO or the soccer coach for the Shelby City Schools," said Shelby Superintendent Tim Tarvin. "The Shelby Board of Education will review the investigative report/findings of the Shelby Police Department and assess and discuss the matter at the next Board of Education meeting."
In Swisher's absence, the Shelby Police Department is still providing an officer assigned to act as the SRO at Shelby City Schools.
Barring any special meetings that might be convened, the next scheduled meeting of the Shelby Board of Education is Monday, Oct. 28 at Shelby High School.
Click to read the entire press release from the Shelby Police Department, with the official account of the incident with Officer Swisher.
According to Combs, on Sept. 27, the Shelby Police Department was notified by Tarvin that a teacher had overheard a conversation between two students that Swisher, in his capacity as head coach of the girls' soccer team, had walked through the girl's locker room at the Field House while either soccer or cross country girls were present.
Swisher was immediately placed on paid administrative leave by the Shelby Police Department and suspended from his coaching duties by the Shelby City Schools while an investigation was conducted. All physical or electronic access to the schools or school property was revoked.
Two supervisors at the Shelby Police Department were assigned to conduct parallel inquiries into the allegation. One supervisor was tasked with conducting a criminal investigation, the other with conducting an internal investigation for policy violations.
Approximately 20 student athletes from two teams were interviewed and/or their parents contacted and notified of the allegation. Staff and coaches were also interviewed.
Swisher submitted to both criminal and internal interviews. Upon completion of the criminal investigation, it was submitted to attorney John Studenmund at the request of Shelby Law Director Gordon Eyster for review as a Special Prosecutor. Studenmund reviewed the file and on Oct. 7 declined charges on the case due to a lack of evidence.
"Officer Swisher did in fact pass through the female side of the Field House on more than one occasion in order to access the coaching offices to change for soccer practice," Combs said. "This occurred prior to the official start of school while off-duty and also on at least one occasion off-duty but while in uniform after the start of the school year.
"No female student athletes were undressed when he passed through," he continued. "At no time did he stop, loiter, linger, or engage with the athletes in the locker room. While there is a shower facility in that locker room, it is used as storage and not actively as a shower. There are no restroom facilities in that locker room."
The Field House is a symmetrically designed building with a common area at the front and coaching offices at the rear. There are male and female doors at the front of the building from the common area, but the large locker rooms on both the male and female sides must be walked through to reach either the track and field area or the coaching offices.
As a result of the internal investigation, Swisher was disciplined and received documented cautioning and instruction for not following departmental rules. He has been counseled on accessing the offices using only the male locker room access and to announce his presence and/or have another staff member with him at all times when it is necessary to access a female-only portion of any school or other building.
Combs stated he does not believe this will be a continual or ongoing problem.
"There was no harm caused, but it's not appropriate," he said. "So we have to address it, even just to lay the foundation to say this is serious, and don't do this. We have to do our due diligence."
Swisher started employment with the Shelby Police Department in June 2001. He has served as the School Resource Officer for Shelby since 2017.
According to Combs, Swisher has had a total of four disciplinary incidents with the Shelby Police Department in the past, all of them "very minor, no major incidents."
"A lot more commendations and thank-you notes than there are reprimands or discipline," Combs said.