Management

Fargo police advisory and oversight board meets rocky reception before City Commission |

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The proposed ordinance was subjected to spirited discussion by city commissioners on Monday, Nov. 1, with a 3-2 majority ultimately voting to receive the ordinance for later consideration.

“This is the culmination of a lot of work over many months,” Zibolski said. “I think it’s going to have a positive impact on community relations.”

The seven-member advisory board would receive training to better understand police operations in order to advise the force on matters including internal investigations, use of force and new technologies, such as facial recognition, he said.

The board would serve as a “buffer” between the police force and the community, the chief said.

Commissioner Dave Piepkorn expressed strong opposition to the proposed police advisory and oversight board.

“The oversight board for the police department is us,” he said. “This is redundancy and I won’t support it.”

The board won’t set policy, Zibolski said. That would remain the province of the City Commission. Instead, the advisory board will be a forum for discussion and gave choke holds as an example. “We don’t train choke holds,” he said, adding the holds are not used to take a suspect into custody, but only to save a life.

Commissioner John Strand endorsed the concept, but said he didn’t want to exclude community members from serving if they hadn’t been convicted of any crimes for the past five years, but Zibolski said that could face resistance from police and also interfere with weapons training of members.

Commissioner Tony Gehrig said he wanted to approve the advisory board as a matter of policy, not under an ordinance, and Commissioner Arlette Preston expressed support for the proposal.

Mayor Tim Mahoney strongly backed the proposal. “It’s an excellent ordinance,” he said. “It’s a big step forward for our police force,” adding that many departments are using such boards.

Zibolski also presented information about a police crackdown on speeding and racing on Fargo’s thoroughfares.

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Officers have handed out 71 citations for speeding and racing. Officers focused their enforcement on three traffic corridors where speeding has been a problem: the 1800 block of 19th Avenue North, the 2100 block to the 4000 block of 25th Street South and the 2500 block to 3600 block of 64th Avenue South.

Enforcement will increase when 13 new officers complete their training, Zibolski said.

Preston urged police to make speeding enforcement a priority. “In my mind this is serious enough that we need to attack this pretty hard,” she said, adding that she is afraid someone could be killed.

“It’s crazy — people driving 80 miles an hour on University,” Preston said. “It’s nuts.”

Zibolski said there are no technological tools to solve the problem. “There is no magic bullet,” he said.

One tool would be a law or ordinance that would hold the owner of the vehicle responsible. Fargo police officers don’t pursue a suspect for traffic violations, so sometimes are not able to identify the offending driver, he said.

“We need the ability to hold someone responsible,” Zibolski said, adding that he would help draft a law or ordinance.

City commissioners gave conditional approval to transfer of the alcoholic beverage license for the Africa Restaurant and Nightclub, 4554 Seventh Ave. S.

The owner of the building, 518 Properties, owned by Tyler Brandt, wants to assume operations and have an agreement to purchase the license from the club’s previous owners. Commissioners earlier revoked the license because of public safety concerns, including the shooting death of a club bouncer at a nearby parking lot in May.

A representative of 518 Properties, Dean Hicks, said a management team is not yet in place. Plans call for keeping the same business concept. “We believe it’s an underserved area in the metro,” he said.

Once the management team is in place and the business concept is firm, the beverage license transfer could come back before the City Commission, which gave its conditional approval to the transfer.

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