Matt Swartz has always been active in law enforcement growing up with both of his parents being Police Officers in their hometown in central upstate New York. As such it was natural for Matt to transition into law enforcement, first as Security Police in the NY Air National Guard, and then into civilian law enforcement. After beginning in a few small departments near where he lived, Matt became a Trooper of the NY State Police. A couple years later, as the world reacted to the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Matt was one of the Troopers sent to Ground Zero as the response began, thousands of first responders and military continued to arrive in the weeks after. Matt continued developing his career in law enforcement and he gained experiences of all types and qualifications in various law enforcement techniques and specialties.
In November 2004, Matt was critically injured in an automobile crash in which his vehicle was struck in the side by another driver. The impact caused Matt’s vehicle to flip and roll four times leaving him in a coma with a fractured skull, traumatic brain injury, and other injuries. What might have been worse, and what seemed to be the end for this Trooper, was the fact that his leg would need to be amputated. Response from Troopers, both far and wide and from other States, symbolized the commitment and compassion in the profession that many don’t see. The operations and recovery were grueling to say the least. Matt showed a tenacity for returning to duty and resilience despite the many setbacks, all the while he was strongly supported by his fellow Troopers and even many civilians that pitched in to help both he and his family. A few other officers from around the country, who happen to also be amputees, reached out to Matt and offered any help they could. Just shy of one year after the crash, Matt was able to return to full-duty as a Trooper with the NY State Police, the first to do so for the agency which happens to be one of the largest state police agencies in the Nation.
Matt expressed this viewpoint … “There are many tools that assist law enforcement officers in performing the everyday mission to protect and serve. A badge, a gun, patrol car, handcuffs, even a computer are necessary tools for officers. I just have an extra tool and it happens to be a left leg. Just another tool to help me do the right thing and serve my community as a Police Officer.”
A few years later, Matt took the opportunity to become an instructor for the force and continued in that role while still working in the patrol function. Matt said he feels like it was a natural progression for him with his experiences developed throughout his career, coupled with his challenges faced in adapting to law enforcement despite disability, to become a trainer and instructor for law enforcement officers. Indeed, he has shown his character and earned his place in the family of law enforcement officers, and then worked so hard to remain a value to the law enforcement community despite the overwhelming odds presenting every reason to leave it.
After a little more than 23 years in NY law enforcement, Matt has recently retired from the NY State Police but has continued his legacy as a law enforcement instructor for DHS.
In an unbelievable circumstance, not long after his retirement, moving, and starting as an instructor, he was involved in another collision. Struck head-on by a drug-impaired driver, he once again faced nearly insurmountable physical challenges with the injuries to his body. The family and community of law enforcement stepped in to once again help Matt in the many various steps required for him to be able to walk again and recover. The medical professionals did their part in assisting Matt back to health. Matt’s resilience and tenacity, coupled with support from his friends and law enforcement family, saw him once again return. ‘Standing With Honor’ despite being an amputee, proudly serving, albeit with one leg short.
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