I was shocked and disappointed to read the February 6, 2017 Williston Herald newspaper article titled “Watford City police chief resigns”. I thought that the Watford City Police Department was well run, unified, and all on the same page. What happened, what was this about?
In January 2017, Police Chief Walgren logged into Assistant Police Chief Jesse Wellen’s e-mail account, and sent an internal e-mail to the entire police department saying that he was coming out of the closet as a homosexual. It was meant as a prank.
No police officers complained, but city officials found out about the e-mail as Assistant Police Chief Jesse Wellen tried to find out who the culprit was. The “city officials” once they found out about the e-mail, decided that it was “inappropriate” and “wasn’t going to be tolerated”, and to suspend the Police Chief without pay.
I don’t even know where to begin. On a scale of 1 to 10 of what police officers have to deal with every day, this is about a “2”. The police officers know, that an e-mail like this is most likely a prank, and if it was true, so what, big deal.
Most police officers, corrections officers, paramedics, firefighters, and military service members that make a career as a first responder have a sense of what is a big deal and what is not a big deal. Someone getting shot, stabbed, burned, losing a limb, that is a big deal. A stupid prank, not a big deal. If a first responder is going to get upset about every small thing, they are going to be upset all day, every day, and probably have a short career. But the newspaper article said that no police officers complained. Good.
I wish that the “city officials” in Watford City would have looked at the “big picture”. Is the crime under control in Watford City? Are there complaints against the police department by citizens? Are there internal complaints within the police department? Are they unable to hire and retain police officers?
I had to deal with Watford City police officers about three times in 2015, and about six times in 2016. I would say that crime was very under control in Watford City, I didn’t have any complaints against the officers, I never detected any dissent among the officers, and all the officers appeared to get along. This is probably why the Police Chief felt it was O.K. to play this joke within his department, everything was going O.K., and everyone was getting along.
I believe that the Watford City Police Department was well run. I met Police Chief Walgren once in 2016, he was very mild-mannered, alert to what was going on, intelligent, and to the point. I don’t know what the “city officials” in Watford City were thinking, I don’t think they were thinking.
It would have been a good idea for the “city officials” to offer the counsel, “Please refrain from logging into other people’s e-mail accounts, it could create problems, you can see that can’t you? Pranks of this sort could result in a formal complaint, and some type of legal action. Please refrain from pranks like this.” This counsel could have been given verbally. This would have been appropriate for a city employee on their first offense, especially since a good job was being done overall.
I bet everyone in Watford City will begin to wish that a big deal hadn’t been made about this. I know I wish it hadn’t.