Climate assessment on East Grand Forks Police Department pursued after council received anonymous letters

On Feb. 7, the East Grand Forks City Council met in closed session to discuss the matter and entered into a retainer with Pemberton Law Firm, which conducted a third-party assessment.

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East Grand Forks City Hall. Herald file photo.

EAST GRAND FORKS — A climate assessment conducted on the East Grand Forks Police Department came after the City Council received multiple anonymous letters from employees.

City Administrator David Murphy said the dissatisfaction expressed by employees varied, but included comments on work conditions and people within the department. The council also heard other feedback.

“It was a combination of interviews, feedback we’ve been getting, the council had been contacted, I had been contacted via some anonymous stuff," Murphy said. "So we just thought ‘well, we should see what’s going on.'"

The result of the climate assessment was discussed during the most recent meeting of the East Grand Forks City Council, on April 11. The report outlined a divide in the department between those who feel Chief of Police Michael Hedlund is an effective department leader they support, and those who feel Hedlund isn’t an effective leader. Kristi Hastings, of Pemberton Law Firm, summarized that roughly 75% of those interviewed support Hedlund and around 25% do not.

During Tuesday's meeting, the council did not discuss details of the background or the events that led to the assessment.


Later in the week, Murphy told the Grand Forks Herald that the City Council received the letters in early February. On Feb. 7, the council met in a closed session to discuss the matter and entered into a retainer with Pemberton Law to conduct a third-party assessment on the department.

“It's hard to determine how accurate some of (the complaints were), particularly when it's not always signed," Murphy said. "We discussed it and I had been working with our employment attorney so we made the recommendation to have an independent, third-party do that climate assessment so we knew just what really is the attitude there, what is the issue."

Murphy said the climate assessment in turn helped to prepare a plan moving forward.

"We needed to know exactly what we were dealing with and once we knew that then we could make a plan on how to move forward,” he said.

In the summary, Hastings noted the department is on the right track, but there’s work to be done to create an environment in which everyone feels comfortable. Some key takeaways that will need to be worked on include the need for respectful workplace training, working out the rotation of the Drug Force Task and investigator assignments and looking into the amount of time spent in the office or dispatch versus time spent in the community.

The Herald requested to see specific complaints, but was told that information is confidential.

Murphy said the council will help direct the department on accomplishing those takeaways. The council also will be receiving a follow-up, which will be conducted in around three months, to track the progress being made.

During the council meeting, Mayor Steve Gander and council member Mark Olstad thanked those who participated in the climate assessment and encouraged those who didn’t initially share their feedback to reach out.


Work with Pemberton Law is now complete. The firm was compensated $13,600 for its work, with the money coming from the city’s general fund.

Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 701-780-1267 or

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
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