Fargo Police to be placed on improvement plan by commissioners over staffing, morale issues

Fargo Police
Fargo Police(KVLY)
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 6:15 PM CST
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Both the Fargo Police Department and its chief were called into question Tuesday morning by city leaders after 35 officers have resigned from the department in less than 18 months.

20 officer vacancies currently plague FPD, with three more openings on the civilian side. Today, police confirmed that at times, there have only been five or six officers patrolling the entire city when usually that number is double.

“This is alarming,” Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said. “To me, this is jeopardizing public safety. And so, to get up here now and say, ‘Well, we’re coming forward with all these solutions.’ It’s like, ‘Hey man, it’s a little bit late for that.’”

And while many in the public have also echoed Piepkorn’s concerns over safety in the community, Chief David Zibolski says, ‘fear not.’

“I don’t think the department is in crisis. I think the department has some challenges. The big thing in the community is that they’re safe and our cops are out there making sure they’re safe,” Zibolski said.

Several exit interviews from former Fargo Police officers, as well as interviews with both current and former police officers out of Beloit, Wis., where Zibolski previously served as chief, depict a toxic work environment created by Zibolski and a ‘lack of leadership.’ However, Zibolski says those claims aren’t the majority

“I’m happy to stand on my record of over 35 years in law enforcement. I think over the course of that time, especially in leadership roles we could all find people who were not happy with the changes we made,” he said.

Commissioner Piepkorn went on to question why commissioners weren’t alerted of the severe staffing shortages the department has been facing, and blamed Mayor Tim Mahoney, who is the commission’s liaison for the police department, for not ringing the alarm.

“You weren’t doing your job,” Piepkorn told Mahoney. “Why were we not made aware of this? Because this didn’t just happen today.”

Zibolski said he ‘didn’t think’ the commission would want to know information like that, as he stated there is nothing the commission can do to help.

In light of both the many claims against Zibolski and the severe staffing challenges in the department, Commissioner Tony Gehrig says he expects to impose an improvement plan on FPD, which if not met successfully, could mean the end of the road for Zibolski.

“They’re going to sign a contract. They’re going to say, ‘This is how we’re going to get from where we are to where we’re going and we’re going to give it a specific time frame,’” Gehrig explained. “And if the department isn’t where to needs to be, then something needs to happen. Either we stick with the chief we have, or we don’t.”

“What happens to me personally is not more important than what happens to the department of the success of the department,” Zibolski said.

At this time, it’s not clear how long the improvement plan’s timeline would be. Gehrig says he plans to present specifics for the police department and make a motion to go forward with the plan at next Monday’s commission meeting.

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