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Chief's Corner: Police department is working to keep community’s trust

A recent article in a local publication highlighted the number of complaints filed against police department employees in the Fargo-Moorhead area. The period examined was from June 1, 2013, to June 1, 2014. The West Fargo Police Department reported having reviewed 70 complaints during that time frame.

Eleven of the complaints were sustained; the basis of the complaint was found to be a violation of department policy or practice. Each incident was examined further to determine if the violation was the result of a faulty policy or practice, if there was adequate training of the employee, or the employee acted in error. A violation occurring as the result of policy or training will not result in discipline for the employee. If discipline is determined appropriate it may take the form of counseling, a verbal or written reprimand, suspension or even termination.

Employees were exonerated in 33 of the complaints; the incident occurred but was in compliance with the law or the department’s policy or practice. In most cases, it is a matter of providing additional information to the person complaining to better explain the actions of the employee. Ten complaints were un-sustained; there was not enough information available to determine a clear outcome of the review. Sixteen complaints were unfounded; the incident did not occur as was claimed.

The practice of reviewing all complaints is for the purpose of providing better service to the public and to build trust between the community and the department. The complaint brings a focused review of an interaction between a department employee and a member of the public. The review may reveal the need to change how the department responds to certain situations. It may also identify those areas where additional training of staff is necessary. The review also reminds the department to provide educational opportunities to the public so that the community can remain informed of the law enforcement process.

While not all people will be happy with the outcome of their interaction, it is the goal of the department to ensure everyone is treated fairly, with dignity and with respect. To be able to provide effective law enforcement within the community, the people must have confidence their concerns will be addressed through a comprehensive and open review. The West Fargo Police Department strives to maintain the public’s trust through professionalism and openness in our actions.

Reitan is the West Fargo police chief.