35 officers, staff out at Fargo Police, many citing toxic work environment, low morale
“Quite frankly the Fargo Police Department is in crisis and Chief Zibolski will not admit it,” one former officer wrote.
FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - In less than two years, dozens of Fargo Police officers and civilian staff have walked away from the job and many of them say the toxic, ‘dictatorship-like’ work environment is to blame.
Exit interviews obtained by Valley News Live show since FPD Chief David Zibolski took office in Oct. 2020, 35 members of the department have resigned, with many of them citing issues with Zibolski and his leadership. One person wrote, ‘The Fargo Police Department is in crisis, and Chief Zibolski will not admit it.’
Several sources close to the department say at least three more staff members placed their resignations into Fargo Police on Friday, Jan. 14.
Seven more employees retired in that timeframe, which many within the department say ‘would have never happened’ had the work environment and leadership not changed ‘for the worst.’
“Chief Zibolski believed that the FPD were a bunch of bumpkins and that he was here to ‘fix’ us,” one former officer wrote.
Many officers likened Zibolski’s type of leadership to that of previous Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes which could “be summed up as a ‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ mentality.”
“I do not hate the Fargo Police Department. But I do hate the toxic environment that exists within it,” a former officer wrote.
“I’ve listened to the Chief equate unhappiness to people don’t like change, and those who don’t want to change with the Department can leave. Nevertheless, when you look at members of all ranks and positions- civilian and sworn- there’s one common factor: the Chief,” one former employee wrote in a 10-page exit interview. “Things are only going to get worse before they get better.”
“I can say now, after a year and a half of his tenure that he suffers greatly from a severe lack of leadership,” a 20 year veteran of the department said. He added the amount of retirements and resignations within the last 18 months was ‘unprecedented,’ and stated Zibolski’s changes to the department ‘are affecting the safety of officers.’
Current officers tell Valley News Live there are only around six or seven officers on a shift throughout the entire city. Officers say that number is usually 12 or more and officers tell Valley News Live they are ‘drowning in calls for service.’
“We literally have less scheduled officers on the street most days than we did 10-15 years ago,” one former officer wrote in his exit interview. “This while the call volume is insanely more than it was 10 years ago and grows exponentially every year.”
Valley News Live obtained Zibolski’s annual performance review from Nov. 2021, which showed little issues found by the City of Fargo’s Human Resources Department.
“The reorganization, to be expected, has resulted in some staff making the decision to exit the department, retire, or find other professional opportunities,” the review stated. “It is incumbent on the Chief to continue to provide leadership, support and communication to the department to continue the implementation of his vision.”
Several former civilian staff wrote the leadership problems aren’t only with Zibolski, but most sergeants and supervisors within the department as well. One former police support specialist wrote there was little to no supervision received for her and her colleagues, and stated there was a high turnover of supervisors.
“Toxic, negative work environment within the records department,” wrote another former police support specialist who called the working conditions ‘poor.’
Several current and former employees of the department tell Valley News Live they hope city leaders listen to the many cries for help and address the issues before it’s too late.
“The Fargo Police Department and the City Leadership needs a wake up call,” one former officer wrote. “The back door politics and good old boy system has run its course and we are paying for the sins.”
Another officer wrote in his exit interview that he is ‘very concerned about the lack of oversight’ the City of Fargo has over the police department.
“It is a shame the city has not taken the proper steps to effectively measure their employees work environment and the leadership of the departments,” he wrote.
Since late last fall, some former Fargo Police Officers tell Valley News Live they have gone to work for West Fargo Police, the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, as well as Clay County. At least three current officers tell Valley News Live they are looking to leave Fargo Police for a different agency, but have delayed that move as they state they ‘are worried for the safety of the community’ with already low staffing numbers.
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