Former Fargo Police Deputy Chief Todd Osmundson resigned last week because of his inappropriate actions during the recent protest in response to George Floyd’s death. But that’s not where the story ends – and it’s still unclear as to what actually happened, who was involved and what this means for the Fargo Police Department and racial justice in Fargo.
The ACLU of North Dakota and OneFargo, a coalition of local activists dedicated to unite the city in the fight against racism, are calling for answers from the Fargo Police Department about what really happened on the night of May 30 and what changes will be made to ensure accountability within the ranks of the police department.
After participating in uniform during a peaceful protest on May 30, Osmundson changed into civilian clothes and wore a face mask and sunglasses and infiltrated protesters in downtown Fargo that night, joining in protesters’ chants against the police. Originally, Osmundson said he acted alone – a statement that was echoed by Chief of Police David Todd and Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney – but since then, he’s said he was acting in conjunction with others and that he informed incident command of his activities on the day of the protest with communication beginning as early as 2:22 p.m.
Osmundson’s conflicting statements need to be addressed immediately and truthfully.
“In Minneapolis, police originally said George Floyd was resisting arrest. But the video later proved that untrue. In Buffalo, New York, police said Martin Gugino tripped. But the video later also proved that untrue. Here, Todd Osmundson said he was acting alone. Now we don’t know what is true,” said Dane DeKrey, advocacy director for the ACLU of North Dakota. “The public has a right to know if they can trust the public servants who are given the authority to take away their liberty. Osmundson’s actions and his conflicting statements afterwards undermines the trust and confidence in the Fargo’s criminal justice system for everyone.”
OneFargo has submitted an official public records request to see any emails, messages or calls related to Osmundson’s actions and Fargo city officials say they are committed to implementing various reforms to prioritize racial equity and inclusion in the community. But before that can happen, the trust between the police department, local officials and the community needs to be rebuilt.
“Fundamentally, these protests began because of a mistrust between our black community and police,” said Wess Philome, one of the leaders with the OneFargo movement. “What Osmundson did was bad, but the potential cover-up of his actions is beginning to feel a lot worse. If the city of Fargo is really serious about reform and racial equity, that can’t happen until our questions are answered truthfully and transparently. We need answers and real commitment to change.”
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 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.