As calls for police reform have intensified around the country and here in North Dakota since George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in Minneapolis, the city of Fargo has a real opportunity for change – and it starts at the top.
As the city’s selection committee interviews John Franklin, Stacy Kelly, and David Zibolski – the three finalists for Fargo’s police chief – this week, local advocacy organizations want to ensure Fargo gets it right – and that the people of Fargo know that they have the opportunity to hear from the candidates and make their voices heard.
That’s why the ACLU of North Dakota, OneFargo and Black Lives Matter Fargo-Moorhead are encouraging people to attend the interviews – open to the public – on Thursday, either in person (following social distancing protocols, of course) or online.
“Hiring a new police chief is an important decision for the city of Fargo,” said Dane DeKrey, advocacy director for the ACLU of North Dakota. “While there won’t be an opportunity for anyone outside of the selection committee to meet or question the candidates directly, the interviews are open to the public. It’s important for the people of Fargo to hear what the final candidates have to say about how they’d lead the Fargo Police Department.”
After Thursday’s interviews, the selection committee will recommend a candidate to the City Commission and the public will have an opportunity to voice their opinion before the final candidate is approved.
“The public has a right to know if they can trust the public servants who are given the authority to take away their liberty,” said Jamaal Abegaz with Black Lives Matter Fargo-Moorhead. “By getting to know where the final candidates stand now, we’ll be better able to comment before the City Commission makes it choice for chief.”
Fargo’s new police chief will oversee several aspects of the police department, including a $22.8 million budget, all personnel and the handling of police misconduct, and the training of future police officers.
“Our next police chief is going to step into a critical position during a time where their leadership skills will be tested immediately,” said Wess Philome, one of the leaders with the OneFargo movement. “Picking a reform-minded chief could be the first step toward real police reform in Fargo. We must do what we can to make sure Fargo gets it right.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Final Interviews for Fargo Police chief
WHEN: 8:15 to 9:15 a.m. – Candidate welcome and introductions
9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. (with a break from noon to 1 p.m.) – Candidate presentations and interviews
2:30 to 3:15 p.m. – Mock news conference with each candidate
3:30 to 4:15 p.m. – Roundtable discussion with candidates
WHERE: Commission Chambers at City Hall, 225 4th St. North, Fargo
ONLINE: The interviews also will be streamed live on TV Fargo Channel 56, TVFargo.com or the city of Fargo’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.
About the ACLU of North Dakota
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU of North Dakota is part of a three-state chapter that also includes South Dakota and Wyoming. The team in North Dakota is supported by staff in those states.
The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection and privacy, are fundamental to a free people. In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ and Two Spirit communities. The ACLU of North Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for the people of North Dakota.