Port: City of Fargo used illegal redactions to cover up police chief's efforts to stop One Fargo rally, description of Black Lives Matter protests as a 'war'
MINOT, N.D. — In illegally redacted portions of a June 3 email sent by Fargo chief of police David Todd, he spoke of his efforts to stop the peaceful One Fargo rally.
He also praised the actions of disgraced former deputy chief Todd Osmundson, who infiltrated a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Fargo in plain clothes while drinking alcohol and shouting profanity at the uniformed officer s.
A full copy of the email was provided to me after Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem found that the City of Fargo illegally redacted it , inappropriately using exemptions to open records laws reserved for criminal intelligence information and security planning.
Here are both copies of the letter, the one initially provided to me with redactions and the unredacted version ordered released by Stenehjem:
Todd sent the original email to address the controversy in his department over Osmundson's actions.
"I'm going to make this sort because I'm up to my ass and elbows with alligators right now trying to stop the event on Friday (doubt I'm going to be successful) and to be prepared and fortify critical infrastructure," Todd wrote in the email's lead paragraph, most of which was redacted in the original email.
On Friday, June 5, the One Fargo event was held in Island Park and has been widely praised as a peaceful and unifying event.
In another redacted portion of the email, Todd described the information gathered by Osmundson while drinking as "invaluable intelligence information on how this group works behind the scenes, directed their efforts (vehicles, resupplying, scouts, recon, etc.) along with a significant amount of photos of some of our bad characters and their operations."
"Although this information is of significant value, it doesn't make what he did okay," Todd continues in another redacted section.
The City of Fargo has claimed that there was no effort to delay accountability for Osmundson's actions, yet in another section of the email, which was redacted, Todd wrote: "I'll deal with it when we can breathe."
I spoke with Chief Todd on the evening of June 3 about my request for this email, and he told me then that he needed to speak with Mayor Tim Mahoney before releasing it to me. After Mahoney and Todd met on the morning of June 4, a suspension for Osmundson was announced, and he resigned shortly after that.
The entire closing paragraph of Todd's email was redacted. It contains more praise for Osmundson, an exhortation of his officers that they "stow" criticism of the deputy chief, as well as a passage describing the Black Lives Matter protests as a "war."
"Right now, we have to stow this kind of stuff and be the team we need to be," Todd wrote. "If you don't recognize we're about to become a part of the war that's happening in other large cities, you should recognize that now. Come together and be one team or we are screwed. I'll talk more about what I see coming tonight at our gathering."
Todd announced his retirement in May. The city has discussed finding an interim chief to take over the job in August.
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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 .