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Insight from WFPD: Complaints against a police officer

The recent arrest of a West Fargo Police Officer has generated a substantial amount of coverage in the media and on local talk radio. Early in the training of a future police officer the student is told their life will change when they put on the uniform. The officer and the things they do will be highly visible in the community. They will be required to display the integrity required by the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics at all times. And as they begin their career they will raise their right hand and swear to the oath of office.

Law enforcement has chosen to regulate their employees by setting professional standards and establishing rules, regulations and policy to direct the operations of the department. To ensure the integrity of the department a process to systematically report, investigate and respond to complaints has been developed. This process is separate from any criminal investigation that may be taking place relating to the incident. If an internal review discovers an illegal activity the review stops and the matter is referred to an outside law enforcement agency to continue the investigation.

Complaints may come from outside of the department or may be the result of an internal observation. Each complaint is reviewed to identify the employees involved and to collect the details of the incident. After developing the details a root cause for the complaint is determined. A comparison is then made between the facts of the case and the policy or procedure which should have been the guidance for the employee's course of action. A final determination is then made.

A complaint could be determined to be unfounded, the allegations are found to be untrue. The employee could be exonerated in that the allegations are true but are the result of adherence to proper and appropriate law enforcement procedures and techniques. A complaint may be found not sustained in that the investigation was unable to verify the truth of the matters. The final ruling is the complaint was sustained as the allegations were found to be true. Certain findings will result in discipline while others may drive a change to a policy or procedure or additional training for the employee.

Like any business, department employees are faced with different levels of discipline. An employee can receive counseling or coaching, a reprimand, suspension, demotion or may even be terminated. The type and severity of the violation or frequency of events will determine the level of discipline given.

If you feel a need to file a complaint against an employee of the West Fargo Police Department you are encouraged to do so. Complaints can be received a number of ways. The complaint can be given verbally or a complaint package can be provided to you to complete. You may elect to call 701-433-5500 and request to speak with an on-duty supervisor. You can choose to stop at the West Fargo Police Station 800 4th Ave. E. #2 West Fargo or the complaint can be sent by mail to the same address. You can also e-mail the Assistant Chief at

To properly investigate a complaint the department will need as much information as you are able to provide. Required items are time, date, location and the nature of the complaint. If available, employee name, officer badge number and squad car number. Employees are required to identify themselves to those who ask. The number is posted on the patrol cars front and back. Your name, telephone number and address are not required but allow the supervisor investigating the incident to contact you for follow-up information and to provide you with the outcome of your complaint.

The department strives to maintain the highest level of professionalism and mandates its employees to adhere to the level of standards established by the administration. It is only through professionalism, honesty and integrity that the department can fulfill the expectations of the public.