MINOT, N.D. — On June 3, I revealed in a column that Todd Osmundson, then deputy chief in the Fargo Police Department, had infiltrated a Black Lives Matter protest.
He was seen by his fellow officers carrying around a beer can and shouting expletives at them along with the demonstrators.
Osmundson apologized for his actions in a lengthy email sent out to department personnel, which I obtained through an open records request. Osmundson lied in the email, saying the beer can he was carrying was empty and used only as a prop to fit in with the crowd, but later admitted to an internal investigation that he had been drinking.
That review also concluded that Osmundson's actions "created significant risk to the public, himself and other officers."
Shortly after the publication of my column, on June 4, Osmundson abruptly retired.
A review of Osmundson's financial situation may explain why he opted to retire. Despite his actions which disgraced himself and undermined the public's confidence in the Fargo Police Department, Osmundson will enjoy a cushy retirement.
That might not have been the case had he tried to hang on to his job.
Per city spokesman Gregg Schildberger on June 19, Osmundson received his final paycheck from the City of Fargo, totaling $14,904.41.
That amount included his regular salary, a payout of his unused vacation days at 100 percent of his salary, and payment for sick days (he received 44.4 percent of his salary for accumulated sick days beyond 960 hours).
In addition to this payment, Osmundson will continue to receive pension payments from the City of Fargo. He served 32 years on the police force, and in retirement will earn $9,442.64 per month or more than $113,000 per year.
Had Osmundson been terminated - definitely a possibility given his actions, including drinking while ostensibly on the job - he wouldn't have qualified for that pension. Section 6-0116 of Fargo's municipal code state that an employee who is terminated is entitled "to a refund of all contributions made by them," but not on-going pension payments.
That reality provided a significant financial impetus for Osmundson to retire before he could be fired.
It may also be why Fargo PD leadership has been reticent to take any further action against Osmundson.
When I asked Schildberger if something like a criminal charge could impact Osmundson's pension, he directed me to the municipal code. Unfortunately, the law isn't clear on what happens with a pension when an employee chooses to quit before they can be fired, but it's fair to say that if the Fargo Police Department had proceeded with charges against Osmundson it might well have cost him his pension.
Remember that some of the demonstrators at the protest were arrested for the same sort of activities Osmundson engaged in. "The ACLU believes Osmundson should be charged with crimes, including: drinking in public, curfew violation, refusal to disperse, and inciting riot," C.S. Hagen reported recently.
In that article, it's also revealed that Osmundson's actions could jeopardize the prosecution of arrested demonstrators.
"No citations were issued, no arrests were made and no referrals for charge-out were made for any such violations," Chief David Todd told reporter April Baumgarten. "Thus, unless there is further information developed, this will continue to stay in the category of an employment issue that has been addressed, and there will be no further review for possible charges against Todd Osmundson from the events on May 30, 2020."
This is not a good look for the Fargo Police Department at a time when, both locally and nationally, law enforcement is under fire for being reluctant to hold their own accountable.
Also, it really shouldn't be up to the police chief to decide whether or not criminal charges are brought. That determination should be made by prosecutors, especially in a case where a police department is investigating the misdeeds of one of its own.
It looks worse when we go back and review Osmundson's gushing praise for Todd in his initial email, apologizing for his actions. "Chief knows me well," Osmundson joked at one point, deploying a smiley emoji. "But I used to outrun him in our SWAT days all the time however."
Osmundson's actions should have been investigated by an entity outside of the Fargo Police Department.
That's not what happened, and it only contributes to the erosion of trust in the department that Osmundson's actions began in the first place.
To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify Osmundson's payout of his unused vacation days and sick days.