FARGO - Over 60 complaints were lodged against law enforcement officers in the Fargo-Moorhead area in the last two years, and most resulted in discipline that ranged from reprimands to firings, according to documents obtained by The Forum through public records requests.
The complaints - some originating from inside police agencies, and some from outside - were wide-ranging. But one type of violation came up again and again: the incorrect administration of medicine to Cass County Jail inmates.
From May 31, 2016, to June 15, 2018, there were seven cases in which jail officers made a mistake when giving medication to an inmate, county records show.
Such cases arise when a jail officer gives an inmate the wrong dosage or the wrong medication, or it's given at the wrong time, said Capt. Andrew Frobig, the jail administrator.
One incident in July 2016 led to a two-day suspension for an officer who failed to properly supervise an inmate, and as a result, the inmate overdosed on insulin and was taken to the emergency room, records stated. The inmate survived, though severe insulin overdoses can be fatal.
In another case, an officer failed to properly supervise an inmate taking insulin, and the inmate took the wrong kind of insulin and the wrong amount. The complaint against the officer was sustained, but he received no discipline, records show.
Officers in the five other cases also had their complaints sustained, but were not disciplined. Each of the seven cases involved a different officer, and in two of them the officers admitted their fault and immediately notified the proper supervisors.
Frobig said the jail has registered nurses on duty who often administer medicine and an on-call doctor. However, the captain said jail officers are also trained to give medicine to inmates.
The Cass County Jail's population fluctuated between 240 and 260 from February to June. The average percentage of inmates on medication was 34 percent in February and 31 percent in June. That's about 80 inmates who need medication.
Donald Leach, an expert in health care at correctional facilities and a consultant based in Utah, said jails provide medication to numerous inmates in a given day, which leads to hundreds of officer-inmate interactions over the course of a year.
Leach said he does not believe seven mistakes across hundreds of interactions is indicative of a bigger issue.
Joel Nitzkin, a public health professional with an expertise in correctional facilities, said mistakes often occur because staff don't have enough training. He said it can be confusing to determine whether an inmate is lying about needing medication, something a trained medical professional would be able to do.
Other disciplinary action
Here's a summary of disciplinary actions taken against law enforcement officers in the Fargo-Moorhead area between May 31, 2016, and June 15, 2018, according to records obtained by The Forum.
Fargo Police Department: Eleven officers received written reprimands, and 12 officers were given verbal or written consultations. Their infractions included failing to appear for court security shifts, dangerous driving and vehicle damage. One officer was suspended for one day without pay for failing to redact a document. Another officer was suspended for one day for disposing of drug paraphernalia found at a crime scene without making a record of it. Three complaints were filed against officers for missing court trial dates after being subpoenaed. One of those officers was David Boelke who was later terminated for failing to go to incident scenes. Officer Wes Libner resigned after being charged with drunken driving. Officer Jeremiah Ferris resigned after being arrested in connection with a fight with his girlfriend.
West Fargo Police Department: Two officers received reprimands: one for failing to show for an assigned patrol shift and the other was for damage done to a squad car. An officer was fired after five months with the department for showing signs of immaturity while off duty and failing to show signs of improvement after extensive field training. A clerk with the department was terminated for failing to fulfill a records request and shredding the request document.
Cass County Sheriff's Office: An officer received a two-day suspension and a written reprimand for drinking underage at a wedding in Fargo. Another officer was given a one-day suspension for criticizing the Black Lives Matter movement on Facebook using a fake account. An officer received a two-day suspension and was required to undergo an alcohol evaluation. Another officer who violated the county's code of conduct resigned prior to his termination process. Five written reprimands were issued for various offenses.
North Dakota State University Police Department: Records provided by NDSU did not show any complaints or disciplinary action taken.
Moorhead Police Department: One officer received an oral reprimand for failing to follow up on a stolen property case. Another officer was given a five-day suspension without pay for leaving the scene of a crash he was involved in with his personal vehicle and not reporting it to Cass County authorities.
Dilworth Police Department: An officer was given an eight-hour suspension for repeated communication issues and failing to register in time for a communications class at Minnesota State University Moorhead. An oral reprimand was directed toward Chief Ty Sharpe for the presence of alcohol at an off-duty department Christmas party. A written reprimand was given to an officer for communication issues.
Clay County Sheriff's Office: Two officers received oral reprimands: one was regarding unprofessional statements and the other was for damage done to a police vehicle. Another officer received a one-day suspension for sending a derogatory text to a supervisor while on duty.