(Fargo, ND) -- Fargo Police Chief Dave Zibolski spoke with WDAY Radio about the day-to-day operations within the Police Department, popular exercises and programs utilized by the community, and plans for the future.
The Neighborhood Services Division is the most publicly seen agency in the Police Department, who take calls for service and are generally in the communities every day. This includes Patrol and Specialized Services.
Patrol units are generally the "boots on the ground" according to Chief Zibolski. He says they are the ones going through neighborhoods, answering calls for service, following up on investigations, and generally making arrests. The Specialized Services units cover a wide range of officers who often have unique roles. Individuals in specialized services include airport officers, civilian community service members, the department's community engagement team, downtown resource officers, and the unit's school resource officers.
"Neighborhood Services Division is what you would probably traditionally refer to as patrol, our boots on the ground," said Chief Zibolski.
The Criminal Investigations unit offers a wide range of services to the department and the community overall, largely focusing on solving the crimes committed in our region. Information or complaints gathered from Patrol is sent to Criminal Investigations, who further dive into detail to solve crimes. Multiple different departments fall under the umbrella of Criminal Investigations; including Property, Persons, Street Crimes, Narcotics, Intelligence and Analysis, and Crimes against Children.
Crimes against Property works to solve vandalism, damages to structures, and similar incidents. Crimes against Persons is largely attributed to violent crimes, like robberies, homicides, and sexual assaults. Street Crimes is tasked with tracking down individuals who are wanted either locally or regionally, or seek individuals identified as suspects. The Narcotics unit is part of the Cass County Drug Task Force, and conducts investigations related to opioids and other illegal drugs within our region. Intelligence and Analysis collects, monitors, and organizes data and patterns within it to find suspects in our area. Crimes against Children focuses on the crimes against kids in our area, especially sexual assaults, kidnappings, and missing persons.
"Public safety is a team sport. It's not just the Police Department, we can't do it on our own, "said Chief Zibolski, "We need our collaborative partners, the businesses, to help in all of those endeavors [and] keep Fargo safe."
Professional Standards Divisions
The Professional Standards Division is tasked with operations within the department and recruiting for the agency. This includes units like Training and Development, Professional Accountability and Records.
Training and Developing conducts and operates the Police Department's training academy, keeps the whole agency's department up-to-date on training, and are also recruiters of the whole department. Professional Accountability works on internal affairs; like use of force incidents, citizen complaints, and crash reviews should the need arise. The Records unit keeps track of open records request, transcription of documents, and in general keeps track of statistics the department deems necessary to tabulate.
"While [each department] has their own individual focus. That focus is part of a larger vision and we have to be pulling that rope in the same direction, "said Chief Zibolski.
There are multiple programs and initiatives the department utilizes to connect with community members.
The department hosts an Annual Community Picnic in a designated neighborhood in the city every year. Chief Zibolski says the picnics gives the department an opportunity to engage with the different communities across Fargo, build relationships, and establish trust. He adds this is why the Police Advisory Committee was established in 2021, to continue to provide an avenue of communication and transparency with the community.
Another aspect Chief Zibolski highlighted in the interview was the importance of ride-alongs, which allow anyone to ride with an officer for a day to observe their shift and learn from the experience. Chief Zibolski says this experience is instrumental in providing an officer's perspective to elected officials, citizens, and even prospective employees.
"I can't tell you how many interview panels I've sat on for new officers and they mention the ride-along. I ask them a question like 'what did you do to prepare'... 'I did a ride-along with so-and-so, I really liked what they had to say and the way that they did things. I liked the environment and the culture of the department, and the way that they treated people."
Chief Zibolski says there are strategic goals the Police Department has set to address possible future concerns.
The Chief says the number one priority for the department is maintaining staffing levels. This follows a recent report released by the City of Fargo, which showed morale and staffing levels were improving from previous reported concerns from city leaders. Chief Zibolski says plans are in place to expand their investigative and traffic divisions, along with expanding recruitment and retention across the board.
Chief Zibolski says another future goal is to expand the number of substations located within the city. He argued a "second, physical facility" is needed because of the geographic size of Fargo especially with the continued expansion of the city. The new facility would be a place of operations for Fargo officers, and would serve as a regional training center. The Chief says the current training center is shared with three departments, is showing its age, and would ease scheduling conflicts created by using the same space with other departments. The project will be evaluated in the department's needs assessment.
You can learn more about the Fargo Police Department by clicking here.