FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Fargo’s interim police chief was selected Friday to take over the top job at a department still reeling from morale problems in a city dealing with an increase of gang violence, drive-by shootings and sex trafficking as the area’s population also rises.
Dave Todd, 49, is a lifelong Fargo resident who has been with the Fargo Police Department for 28 years. He said it is a challenging time in a metropolitan area that has grown from 138,000 people when he was in high school to more than 220,000 in 2015.
“People are not used to us having robberies. And we have had a dozen robberies at least this year,” Todd said. “I grew up in Fargo and I’m not used to that. That’s shocking to me. What I hope is, is that it continues to be shocking to us so we don’t get used to it and we do something about it.”
Todd has served as interim police chief since Keith Ternes stepped down nearly a year ago amid an investigation into alleged morale and disciplinary problems in the department. It culminated when a popular police lieutenant committed suicide.
“As everybody knows in this community we were going through a pretty difficult time as a department last year,” Todd said. “And then the turmoil that happened within the department that also got portrayed out into our community that probably made people what’s going on a the Fargo Police Department.”
Todd said the department has made changes to give employees more say in decisions.
“I think that has helped our department heal, but we didn’t get where we were overnight and we won’t get out of where we were in 11 months,” Todd said. “It’s going to be longer. This is a journey that we’re going to have to take together.”
Todd was selected by a committee over two other candidates, including Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel and George Austin, captain at the Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department in North Carolina. Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said Vettel and Austin contributed good ideas during interviews that should benefit the department.
“We think we had a good robust discussion the last two days,” Mahoney said. “The candidates will tell you sometimes it was a little too robust. But it served the purpose well.”
The Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota, area is experiencing unprecedented growth - and growing pains. Police alerted citizens last spring that dozens of gang members, primarily from Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and California, have come to the area because of its growing population and strong economy.
“That would be a challenge for any police department,” Todd said. “You look at crime nationwide right now and even if North Dakota, crime is going up. And not just a little bit. So we have to be focused on working smart and using the intelligence we have to go after the people who are specifically causing problems.”
The Fargo City Commission will need to approve the selection at its Monday meeting.
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