A look inside the biggest department in our viewing area
As the nationwide outcry for police reform continues, KX News has been taking a closer look at the largest agency, here, in our own backyard.
Transparency is key at a time like this. We took a dive into the Bismarck Police Department’s annual complaint reports for the last five years. They contain any negative claims made to the department against an officer or group of officers.
In total, 80 were made between 2015 and the end of 2019.
In 11 of them, citizens complained of excessive force at the hands of Bismarck officers. All 11 were not sustained, meaning there wasn’t sufficient evidence and the officers were exonerated by the department.
But it’s still worth asking: If I were a victim of mistreatment by police– what could I do?
“The best thing to do is to contact the officer’s supervisor. We have what’s considered a Duty Commander that’s working 24 hours, seven days a week,” shared the Bismarck Police Department’s Deputy Chief Jason Stugelmeyer.
You would come to the police department and fill out a form, describing what happened.
“In cases of serious offenses, it could be investigated by our internal affairs division,” Stugelmeyer added.
When asked what an investigation entails, the Deputy Chief responded, “Well there’s always two sides to every story. The supervisor, then, will review all the documents associated with that…maybe there was a police report, there are usually other witnesses; we have recordings through in-car video and officers have an audio recording on them if they’re within range.”
The one situation that an outside agency will get involved in for sure is with officer-involved shootings, which is generally the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
But the Burleigh County State’s Attorney tells KX News, people cannot make a complaint directly to BCI. The complaint has to go to the local law enforcement agency with jurisdiction of the crime.
“If they’re not satisfied, they can always make a complaint to the next level, such as the Attorney General…And some people aren’t satisfied and they have gone to the media. We’ve seen that too,” Stugelmeyer shared.
But, the Deputy Chief says outside of officer-involved shootings, the department has been able to satisfy almost all of its claims themselves.
We asked the Assistant State’s Attorney in Morton County if she believes that cases of police misconduct, particularly excessive force, are an issue in our state.
The ASA, Gabrielle Goter responded, “I would say, no, there’s not a pattern.”
And, there is no central tracking system for law enforcement conduct in the state, that we could find.
Deputy Chief Stugelmeyer says when it comes to internal investigations, there’s not a person or place where they’re required to report complaints.
But the complaint reports published every year are public.
It is important to note that last year BPD received just one use of force complaint.
We don’t have the annual report yet for calls to service in 2019, but in 2018, Bismarck officers were dispatched 4,901 times and made 22,494 traffic stops.
That means, out of those more than 27,000 encounters, .01 percent of all calls made to the police department resulted in a use of force complaint.