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Fargo's deputy chief faces criticism from officers for role during riot

Deputy Police Chief Todd Osmundson expects to be disciplined for his unauthorized undercover work Saturday.

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Fargo Police Deputy Chief Todd Osmundson holds up a sign with protesters in front of Fargo police headquarters, 105 25th St. N., on Saturday, May 30. C.S. Hagen / The Forum

FARGO — In an email to the Fargo Police Department, Deputy Police Chief Todd Osmundson apologized and explained his actions for what he said may have been some "stupid" moves during the protests and riot in Fargo Saturday, May 30.

In his lengthy response to complaints made by some other officers who were upset with him, he made it clear he had no regrets with what he was trying to accomplish and wanted to get his side of the story out to his "brothers and sisters."

The officers' complaints that were repeated in Osmundson's Monday email that Forum columnist Rob Port obtained through an open records request ranged from concerns about Osmundson holding a protest sign at the law enforcement center, to him holding a beer can during the downtown riot, to another complaint that he said the words "f--- the police."

When interviewed by The Forum on Wednesday night, the 32-year-veteran of the department vehemently defended his decision to change into civilian clothes, don a mask and go undercover later in the day.

In particular, the deputy chief wanted to explain why he made the vulgar comment and was holding a beer can.

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Osmundson said he was extremely concerned about long guns or assault rifles being used as the rioting was raging later into the night Saturday and that he spotted a vehicle with a large group around it about two blocks from the police line that was downtown on Broadway.

The group was singing, dancing and playing a rap song with the vulgar words, as well as drinking and smoking marijuana.

He said he wanted to check out a vehicle with out-of-state license plates to see if there were any guns in the open trunk or inside the vehicle. To avoid raising suspicion, he grabbed an empty beer can from the road to mix in with the group. As he was checking out the inside of the vehicle he said he did mouth the words "f--- the police" one time.

When asked how fellow officers knew that he said it, Osmundson said he told a few officers after he returned to the station later that night what he had done.

"I told them I was on the back line trying to protect them," he said. "I said I wanted to make sure that no long guns came out and took you and the other protesters out."

The deputy chief said his methods were similar to what he used when he was an undercover drug officer.

However, because he wasn't "part of the script" for the police action on Saturday, Osmundson said he "fully expects" to be disciplined after he discussed the issues with Police Chief David Todd.

He said the chief told him that his actions were inappropriate and that such "solo gigs" on the back lines weren't allowed.

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Although the chief told him that he knew he had the best intentions, it was a violation.

Todd didn't return a phone call Wednesday night.

Osmundson said he took an oath to protect life and property and was trying to protect officers, the protesters and property in the downtown he loves so much.

He said he probably wouldn't do what he did again, but as he noted in his email, the ideas of how to react to a riot in downtown Fargo, which had never seen such action before, left police with a lot to wonder about.

As for holding a sign that said "One race ... the human race," while interacting with a crowd at Fargo police headquarters, Osmundson said he thought that sign was the only one appropriate for him to hold.

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