Fargo, ND – Thirty-five members of the Fargo Police Department’s (FPD) force have quit or retired since Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski became the city’s top cop just 16 months ago.
Exit interviews showed that many of the officers who left the department did so because they didn’t like the new police chief who joined the department in October of 2020, Valley News Live reported.
Multiple officers cited problems with Chief Zibolski’s leadership, according to the exit interview notes.
“The Fargo Police Department is in crisis, and Chief Zibolski will not admit it,” one officer wrote.
Many of the dozens of police officers and support staff who have walked away have blamed a toxic, “dictatorship-like” work environment, according to Valley News Live.
“Chief Zibolski believed that the FPD were a bunch of bumpkins and that he was here to ‘fix’ us,” one former officer wrote.
Multiple now-former Fargo officers compared Chief Zibolski to his predecessor, former Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes, and said that the comparison could “be summed up as a ‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ mentality,” Valley News Live reported.
“I do not hate the Fargo Police Department. But I do hate the toxic environment that exists within it,” another disgruntled now-former officer wrote.
“I’ve listened to the Chief equate unhappiness to people don’t like change, and those who don’t want to change with the Department can leave,” one former employee wrote in a 10-page exit interview. “Nevertheless, when you look at members of all ranks and positions – civilian and sworn – there’s one common factor: the Chief.”
“Things are only going to get worse before they get better,” that person added, according to Valley News Live.
A 20-year veteran of the Fargo police called the number of resignations in the past 18 months “unprecedented” and said the changes Chief Zibolski has made “are affecting the safety of officers.”
“I can say now, after a year and a half of his tenure that he suffers greatly from a severe lack of leadership,” the now-former officer told Valley News Live.
As a result of the mass exodus from the department, Fargo police officers said there were currently only about six or seven officers per shift throughout the entire city when there would usually be 12 assigned.
Active-duty officers told Valley News Live they are “drowning in calls for service.”
“We literally have less scheduled officers on the street most days than we did 10 to 15 years ago,” one departing officer wrote in his exit interview. “This while the call volume is insanely more than it was 10 years ago and grows exponentially every year.”
But despite all the complaints, Chief Zibolski’s annual performance review from November of 2021 showed the city’s human resources department had few problems with the chief, according to Valley News Live.
“The reorganization, to be expected, has resulted in some staff making the decision to exit the department, retire, or find other professional opportunities,” the review read. “It is incumbent on the Chief to continue to provide leadership, support and communication to the department to continue the implementation of his vision.”
Civil staff who have left since Chief Zibolski took charge had plenty of criticism for his leadership style, but they also had problems with multiple other officials and supervisors, Valley News Live reported.
One former police support specialist complained there wasn’t enough supervision of her and her colleagues and pointed to a very high turnover rate for supervisors.
“Toxic, negative work environment within the records department,” another wrote former police support specialist wrote, calling the working conditions “poor,” according to Valley News Live.
A number of former and current officers said they hoped the city would intervene before it was too late.
“The Fargo Police Department and the City Leadership needs a wake up call,” one former officer wrote. “The back door politics and good old boy system has run its course and we are paying for the sins.”
Former Fargo police officers told Valley News Live that many of the officers and support staff who left have gone to work for West Fargo Police Department, the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.
Three active-duty officers said they were looking for jobs with other departments but had delayed leaving because they were worried about what’s going to happen to the community they’ve protected and served for many years.
Sources told Valley News Live that three more officers resigned on Friday.