Staff Spotlight – Officer Gregory Swiantek

Officer Gregory Swiantek is a resourceful, upbeat, and kindhearted person. A constant source of positive energy around the Yale Police Department (YPD) and on his beat, he’s not letting the pandemic get him down. He continues to work alongside his fellow officers patrolling the campus on the nightshift. When not working, he keeps a stash of homemade masks on him to voluntarily hand out to people in need.

But while COVID-19 hasn’t slowed Greg down, it has changed many aspects of work and home life. New to the routine is extra safety precautions at the YPD, making large batches of hand sanitizer, and homeschooling his daughter. While the campus is quiet, the Yale Police insure that the people still on campus are safe and Yale property is protected. “I think the most difficult thing in all of this has been homeschooling. Teaching is difficult. Policing is business as usual for the most part,” says Greg. Yet, even in this uncertain time, Greg stays positive and is always thinking about how he can help.

The YPD has new sanitary procedures in place that call for the patrol vehicles to be wiped down after each shift. This involves a lot of cleaning products, which, over the past few months, have become harder to come by. Also, per University and State guidelines, all officers must wear masks during their shift. Part of Greg’s regular responsibilities is to order emergency medical supplies (EMS), Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and other protective materials for the YPD. When the pandemic hit, he was concerned about not being able to get these materials. With the new mandate of car sanitizing, he needed to come up with large amounts of cleaning supplies.

A YPD Officer for 14 years, Greg talked to us via Zoom about police work, his experiences during the pandemic, its spiritual message, and homeschooling his daughter.

What have you done to procure safety supplies, PPEs, and other materials during the pandemic? 

We’ve worked closely with our vendors to keep stocked, but also made modifications where we can. For example, everyone can fit into either medium or extra-large gloves, so rather than wait for the other sizes to become available, we just ordered those two sizes to get us through. The folks at the Yale Environmental Health and Safety Office (EHS) have been a great resource and so helpful. They are true professionals and so dedicated to their work. In January, as talk of COVID-19 swirled around us, I began to take a detailed inventory of our supplies and made sure we were heavily stocked. My focus was keeping enough cleaning and sanitizing supplies to keep us all healthy and in turn keep our families safe. To date, we haven’t run out of anything.  

Is the rumor true that you made gallons of homemade hand sanitizer? 

I did, but I used EHS’s recipe! They get full credit. Overnight, sanitizing wipes and our normal disinfecting cleaning supplies became unavailable. In addition, we now needed enough supplies to clean the cars six times a day (off-going officers wipe the car down prior to turning it over to the on-coming officer and the on-coming officer wipes the car down again, as they reload it with their gear).  The car is effectively sanitized six times per day.. Essentially, three police officers occupy a vehicle in a 24-hour period. The recipe for hand sanitizer from EHS calls for 70% ethanol alcohol and 30% water. We purchased over 20 spray bottles and using the ethanol supplied by EHS produced the hand sanitizer. Now a spray bottle is placed in every vehicle and refilled when appropriate. I can’t take sole credit for this. Every member of the Yale PD has gone above and beyond during this time, especially in helping with supplies and, most importantly, keeping the vehicles (and our office) clean.

Obviously, as a police officer, you have continued to work, how has then been? 

I think for anyone who has a routine like we have, this has not been a difficult adjustment. We continue to report to work and continue to act in way consistent to our values, despite what’s going on around us.  

What are your biggest concerns? 

As police officers, we come in contact with many individuals. So those cleaning products, hand sanitizers, gloves, and masks are essential for all of us and our families. If we stay safe, we keep our families safe. My focus was to keep the germs away from the YPD family, the Yale community and, in turn, their families. 

Any other anecdotal stories to share as a result of this pandemic?                                       

I’ve had no negative experiences throughout this ordeal. In fact, I have only ever had positive experiences working at Yale. Recently, I was outside in the yard with my daughter and the sun was out. A small cloud passed by blocking the sunlight. My daughter said wow that little cloud blocked the entire sun out. Mind you she is five. But I thought that is kind of a metaphor for what’s going on. I also feel that this whole thing has been a sort of spiritual message telling all of us to slow down.

 What positives do you see coming out of the whole pandemic, shelter at home, new normal? 

More appreciation and kindness towards each other. Appreciating little things like being able to go wherever you want, anytime you want. I recently went into a local restaurant to get a coffee. The owner told me an anonymous donor had started a tab for first responders. So anything they ordered was being paid for through kindness. I was pretty blown away by that, and hope more people show a little kindness to their neighbors or strangers now and going forward.

What is the first thing you are going to do when this is all over?  

Find the first concert I can go to and go! 

Special thanks:

  • YPD officers and staff
  • Yale Environmental Health and Safety: Kevin Charbonneau, Paula Castagna, and Danielle Scavone
  • EVERYONE, not one negative interaction or comment.
  • Everyone in the chain is strong.