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Fargo police chief says cultural change, transition underway as new officers swear in

“Criticism and being under the microscope is just part of being in the law enforcement profession. And that’s fine. We’re open to that and improvement from there, as well,” Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski said.

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Newly appointed Fargo Police officers, from left, Ezra Walz, Marcus Economy, Morgan Seminary, Tyler Pool and Kelsey Klocke sign documents under the eye of Chief David Zibolski and newly promoted Sgt. Jacob Maahs during ceremonies in the Fargo City Commission chambers on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum
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FARGO — Kelsey Klocke said she has a number of reasons for wanting to be a police officer, but her answers seemed to circle around one goal: helping others.

“I really like helping people,” she said, noting she used to work at a hospital. “I want to be a part of change but also helping.”

She and four other officers took the oath of honor as Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski swore them in on Monday, Jan. 24, at City Hall. Family, friends and fellow officers watched the officers received their badges.

“I’m extremely proud of all of our new hires and our current staff,” Zibolski said. “We do have a very excellent police department, and we continue to get better day by day.”

Klocke, Marcus Economy, Tyler Pool, Morgan Seminary and Ezra Walz were welcomed as officers to the department that currently has 169 police officers. That includes Jacob Maahs, who was promoted Monday to the position of sergeant.

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The department also announced the hiring of three crime analysts: Shannon Oberlin, Caleb Boehm and Jamie Schwan. Victoria Kohler, Kristen Simmons and Kelsey Zinda joined the department as police support specialists.

The hires come as Zibolski faces criticism over staffing and morale concerns. City records show 24 officers and civilian employees in the Fargo Police Department left last year, which is roughly double the number that left in 2020 or in 2019.

Some exit interviews submitted by police employees who left the department blamed Zibolski and his administration, with one saying the work environment had become toxic. Another claimed he equated unhappiness to people not liking change and said those who don’t want to change can leave.

Departure rates are similar to other area law enforcement agencies, Zibolski said during a press conference last week. He said a large percentage of the exit interviews reflected positively on the department.

One person said in their exit interview that the city of Fargo was good to them, and if they could start over there, they would.

While the department is strained by staffing issues, morale is overall good, Zibolski said. The department is coming together because of the criticism, he told The Forum after the swearing-in ceremony.

“Criticism and being under the microscope is just part of being in the law enforcement profession,” Zibolski said. “And that’s fine. We’re open to that and improvement from there, as well.”

Ahead of the ceremony, Mayor Tim Mahoney asked the audience to give the officers a round of applause.

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“It’s always hard when you are under the microscope and people are trying to figure out fact from fiction, and it’s difficult at this time,” Mahoney said. “I’m proud of all of the work you have done in our community and all the work you do every day.”

Klocke said she chose Fargo because it is a larger agency that gives her a lot of opportunities. She is interested in working as a school resource officer and in the K-9 unit. She said she sees a lot of good in the Fargo community and wants to teach people about the law, not just enforce it.

Gaining the five officers, three crime analysts and police support specialists is exactly what the department needs, Zibolski said. They are working hard to fill the other 20 vacancies, he said.

“I think everyone is very pleased to see the level of character in the folks that are coming in,” he told The Forum.

Zibolski said the department is going through a major cultural change and transition to make Fargo safe and unified. It’s vision is built on trust, accountability and inclusion, he said.

“We will do this by enhancing our leadership, strengthening community relationships and continuing to grow a forward-thinking department,” he said. “All of you new officers are a part of that forward-thinking department, and we look forward to what you bring to the table.”

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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