Fargo police chief fires officer accused of failing to appear at scene, file reports
FARGO — Fargo Police Chief David Todd has fired Officer David Boelke for what he said were "intentional and willful decisions to not serve the public" by not going to the scene of incidents and failing to take reports.
The dismissal on Monday, Aug. 7, followed a recommendation from Deputy Chief Ross Renner to terminate Boelke, 39, who became the subject of an internal investigation after he reported on March 28 his failure to appear at a court hearing for a stop-sign violation on his day off.
Boelke is a 15-year veteran of the police force and a four-time life-saving award recipient. He had been on paid administrative leave while Todd was weighing disciplinary action.
Boelke was accused of lying to internal investigators, but his lawyer said he spoke in error during "ambush interviews" and called the accusations "slanderous and false."
In announcing Boelke's firing, Todd said a number of factors "weighed heavily" in his decision. He concluded that Boelke:
• Failed to take reports, sometimes when mandated, and failed to collect evidence.
• "Exhibited conduct that lacks courtesy, empathy and patience toward the public" as well as "disrespectful and discourteous behavior toward members of this department."
• Never showed up at the scene of incidents, according to complainants interviewed by an internal investigator.
• Failed to show up at several scenes and blamed faulty GPS readings in his squad car, but was unable to substantiate the claim.
The internal investigation, which reviewed 280 or 290 of Boelke's calls over the course of a year, found three instances in which investigators found no evidence that Boelke actually visited the scene of an accident or incident. Boelke said he did go to the scene, and challenged GPS data to the contrary.
Todd also said he took Boelke's disciplinary history into consideration, including an earlier failure to appear at a court hearing, failure to report for duty and work performance deemed to violate rules of conduct.
Mark Friese, Boelke's attorney, said Boelke is weighing a possible appeal of his dismissal.
"Of course David and his family are very disappointed in the chief's decision," he said. "They are evaluating their options and will make a decision soon."
During the internal investigation, Boelke was placed on administrative leave pending an inquiry into a comment he made at a patrol briefing on April 7. "Others interpreted the comments as possibly wishing harm to members of this department, or others," Todd wrote.
That incident triggered a "fitness for duty evaluation," which cleared Boelke to return to duty on May 10, subject to conditions, including requirements that he take reports on all crashes and criminal complaints in which state law and policy dictate reports. He also was directed to respond in person to all calls for service.
At the time of his dismissal, Boelke was on administrative leave pending the outcome of the internal investigation.
Grant Benjamin, president of the North Dakota Fraternal Order of Police, which represents police officers, said the organization continues to support Boelke, a past president of the lodge in Fargo.
"We stand with Dave," Benjamin said. "He did not lie."
When confronted during the investigation, Boelke acknowledged that he failed to file proper reports, which Benjamin said supports his claims of truthfulness. The police group submitted information supporting Boelke's claims that the GPS system for his squad car was flawed.
"We do believe he was being truthful," Benjamin said.