Police citizen advisory, oversight board wins final approval in Fargo
7-member panel would examine policing issues in the city
FARGO — Fargo's City Commission gave final approval on Monday night, Nov. 29, to a new city ordinance that creates a first-ever police department citizen advisory and oversight board.
Without further discussion, the commission voted 3-2, as in previous preliminary votes, to start the seven-member board that Police Chief David Zibolski has said will build public trust by increasing transparency and accountability of the police force.
Commissioners Tony Gehrig and Dave Piepkorn voted against the ordinance, while Mayor Tim Mahoney and Commissioners John Strand and Arlette Preston voted in favor.
The board would receive training to better understand police operations in order to advise the force in monthly meetings on matters including internal investigations for misconduct or use of force and new law enforcement technologies such as facial recognition and use of the new body cameras, according to the chief.
Zibolski has said the board would serve as a “buffer” between the police force and the community and wouldn't set policy.
He added the advisory board will be a forum for discussion and gave choke holds as an example. “We don’t train choke holds,” he said in a meeting earlier this month adding the holds are not used to take a suspect into custody, but only to save a life.
Gehrig said at an earlier meeting he wanted to approve the advisory board as a matter of policy, not under an ordinance.
The 25-year-old National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement states on its website that the the number of such boards has "grown significantly in the last few years." Its latest numbers said they have 125 such boards across the nation, mostly in metropolitan or mid-sized cities.
In this region, the group lists known boards in St. Cloud, St. Paul and Minneapolis in Minnesota. It does not list any civilian oversight boards in North Dakota or South Dakota.
No information was yet provided on when and how to apply for a position on the board. There are some restrictions on who can serve on the board, including only one former police officer and no convicted felons or those facing charges. Members are also meant to be reflective of the diversity in the city.
Background checks on prospective board members will be conducted. Terms on the board will be for four years.