FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA – A Fargo police officer disciplined for having sex in his police car in 2002 has now been disciplined for leaving his police car unlocked, leading to the theft of police equipment.
In the latest incident, officer Bret Witte left an unmarked police vehicle unlocked in his driveway on April 11 and someone stole several items from it, said Fargo police Lt. Joel Vettel.
The items included several pairs of handcuffs, a bulletproof vest, a handheld radio, a Taser, two loaded ammunition clips for a handgun and a knife, Vettel said. One set of handcuffs was recovered the next day in Moorhead after a man called dispatchers to say he needed help getting out of them, according to a search warrant filed in Clay County District Court.
Aware of the theft from the Fargo police car, Moorhead police questioned three people about the handcuffs, including the man who had a set of handcuffs on his right wrist, the search warrant states.
The handcuffed man told police an acquaintance pulled the cuffs out of a backpack and placed them on him.
The acquaintance told police the handcuffs belonged to the person who was wearing them and he was unsure where they came from.
A third man, brother of the man wearing the cuffs, told police the handcuffs belonged to a friend of his brother, but he would not provide the person’s name. No charges have been filed, but Fargo and Moorhead police say the investigation into the incident is ongoing.
Vettel said Witte received a letter of reprimand for leaving valuable items in a car and leaving the car unlocked, something he said police often warn the public not to do.
In the 2002 incident, Witte lost 15 days without pay after admitting to supervisors he had sexual relations in his squad car with an 18-year-old woman he was dating at the time. The same woman was arrested in 2004 as part of a Fargo prostitution sting and later convicted.
Vettel confirmed Monday that Witte also was involved in an incident in which he tried to use a Taser on a driver who was leaving the scene of a traffic stop. It was determined that the use of force fell outside of department policy, Vettel said. He said Witte’s latest disciplinary action would have taken into account Witte’s past performance.
“We look at not only the situation at hand, but also the totality of his entire career and work history,” Vettel said, adding that the decision would also have been based in part on the type of discipline other officers received for similar incidents.