On Friday, January 14, Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski and Assistant Chief Travis Stefonowicz participated in an interview with WDAY TV News at the request of reporter Kevin Wallevand. The intent of this interview was described by Wallevand as a discussion regarding public safety staffing challenges nationwide and their impact on the local law enforcement community. The Chief provided a candid and detailed reflection of the difficulties facing officers locally, regionally and nationally (including an analytical comparison of the similarities in peer law enforcement agencies’ vacancy rates).
The Chief also discussed recent efforts at the Fargo Police Department to institute scheduling modifications to improve officers’ work-life balance, the introduction of new officer wellness and health initiatives, strategic planning efforts to provide additional advancement opportunities, integration of officer-led vision/mission/values, the debut of an online system to report crimes with the goal of reducing demand on patrol-level officers, the creation of new internal communication initiatives and much more.
Unfortunately, the information conveyed by WDAY News on Friday evening did not reflect the nature or content of this conversation. The vast majority of leadership claims raised by Wallevand in this story were never discussed during the interview. Neither the Chief nor the Assistant Chief were afforded the opportunity to provide factual responses to many of the claims (which were supposedly received by Wallevand from unnamed sources) raised in the story.
Officer retention and organizational recruitment are two critical goals of the Fargo Police Department and its executive staff. The presentation of the statistics provided by WDAY News failed to take into account the number of career retirements, decisions by members of law enforcement to pursue other occupational fields or to relocate to be closer to family members.
The attached video is a full account of the interview to provide context and clarity regarding these important issues.