FARGO — Law enforcement in the Fargo-Moorhead area has started helping each other again.
That fact was celebrated with a gathering of prosecutors and representatives from a number of law enforcement agencies at the Fargo Police Department on Friday afternoon, May 27, with officials saying the change meant greater safety for members of the public and those working in law enforcement. .
“There’s safety in numbers. It certainly provides a higher level of public safety,” Moorhead Deputy Police Chief Tory Jacobson said.
From March 2021 until recently, local law enforcement on the North Dakota and Minnesota sides of the Red River did not engage in their usual cross-border cooperative efforts, including a joint SWAT team, a joint unit on street crimes and close cooperation between narcotics investigators. .
At issue was a change in Minnesota law following the killing of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.
North Dakota law enforcement in the area stopped providing mutual aid to Minnesota agencies because they were concerned about changes in the use of deadly force.
At the same time, Minnesota officers stopped providing mutual aid to their North Dakota counterparts due to limited resources.
The path to renewed cooperation began to emerge late last year, when a judge struck down Minnesota’s revised use of force law as unconstitutional language in a lawsuit brought by the ‘Minnesota Association of Chiefs of Police; the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association; Minnesota Association of Police and Peace Officers; and Law Enforcement Labor Services.
Before Minnesota’s use of deadly force rules were revised in 2021, officers were permitted to use deadly force to protect the peace officer or another from “apparent death or serious bodily harm.”
The revised law eliminated the word “apparent” and added three requirements to justify the use of deadly force, including that the threat of death or grievous bodily harm must be “precisely articulated by the law enforcement officer.” ‘order”.
This last sentence met with opposition from law enforcement organizations who argued that it could strip officers of their Fifth Amendment right to prohibit self-incrimination.
The lawsuit was resolved after a judge struck out that part of the new law, although new training requirements remained in place.
To meet these training requirements, Clay County District Attorney Brian Melton hosted a training presentation that has now been given to law enforcement officers on the North Dakota side of the Red River, including Fargo and West Fargo Police and Cass County Sheriff’s Office.
While officials said Friday that no major problems had arisen because mutual aid was not available, Clay County Sheriff Mark Empting said the potential for problems was immense.
Empting said that because the local SWAT team was unavailable, if a major incident called him, his deputies would have had to request assistance from an Otter Tail County SWAT team, which he said , would have taken longer to respond than the local team. would have.
Asked how a similar situation could be avoided in the future, Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski said it was a question for lawmakers.
“Right now the law has changed,” Zibolski said, and he noted that he was “looking forward to resuming mutual aid with our partners across the river.”
The Town of Moorhead released a statement on May 19 regarding an investigation by Moorhead Police into illegal narcotics and possession of firearms, noting that a search warrant was executed at a house in north Moorhead with the help of the local SWAT team who provided ammunition and other firearm materials.
As part of the investigation, an individual was arrested during a traffic stop, during which a stolen firearm was found, according to the statement from the town of Moorhead, which specifies that the investigation was the first in Moorhead since mutual aid was restored with North Dakota. agencies.
“This (the drugs and weapons case) has shown the importance of being able to work together and share resources to provide the highest level of service and safety to our community,” the statement said.