Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Irving Swan; 1925-2013: Police captain led fight for job equity




Irving Swan, a retired Toledo police captain who was a leader as black officers sought equity in hiring and promotion, died July 26 in his South Toledo home of kidney failure. He was 88.

He had diabetes and underwent dialysis the last decade, his daughter Stephanie said.

Mr. Swan retired in 1980 as a Toledo police captain. He was president of the Afro-American Patrolmen’s League in April, 1969, when the Ohio Civil Rights Commission found probable cause of discrimination by the city in denying him a promotion. He said he’d taken promotion tests over 15 years, only to be bypassed in favor of white officers, some of whom had lower scores. It was the third favorable ruling for black Toledo officers in two months. He was promoted to sergeant in May, 1969.

“He was a quiet leader. He did what he thought was right,” said his niece Shirley Green, Toledo director of public safety and personnel and a retired Toledo police lieutenant.

Her late father, Marshall Swan, who became a detective, joined his brother as a founding member of the patrolmen’s league.

“They basically opened the doors for myself to become a police officer, for me to get promoted to the rank of lieutenant,” Ms. Green said.

U.S. District Judge Don J. Young later ruled that Toledo’s promotion requirements were discriminatory. The court retained control over hiring and promotion practices for years afterward.

Mr. Swan joined the police force in 1949. An uncle, Joe Carnes, was his partner early in his career. In 1957, the gun of another partner discharged accidentally and struck Mr. Swan. As a result, his lower left leg was amputated. He returned to duty with a prosthesis.

For much of his career, he worked in the records section, although he returned to street duty as a command officer, his daughter said. As a captain, he oversaw the internal affairs and inspections sections.

“People looked up to him,” Ms. Green said. “He was a very stable influence, whatever section he commanded.”

He was born Feb. 28, 1925, to Helen and Ivan Swan. He was a graduate of Woodward High School and a Navy veteran of World War II. He was a longtime member of Spring Street Baptist Church.

He and the former Carolyn McCown married Oct. 13, 1949. She died Jan. 25, 2013.

Surviving are his daughters, Stephanie DeJournett, Kathie Swan, and Yolanda Grace; sons, Jeffery, Mark, and Roger Swan; sister, Shirley Williams; 20 grandchildren; 38 great-grandchildren, and 10 great-great-grandchildren.

Services will be at noon today in the Dale-Riggs Funeral Home, where a family hour is to begin at 11 a.m.

The family suggests tributes to a charity of the donor’s choice.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.

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