Misconduct allegations leveled at Pine County Sheriff's Dept.

11:12 PM, Jan 26, 2012   |    comments
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PINE COUNTY, Minn. - The Pine County sheriff's office has spent the past year investigating allegations of misconduct against 15 employees of the department.

On Monday, Sheriff Robin Cole will face the media to answer questions about the allegations made against his employees, and some of the findings of investigation.

A news release sent out Thursday reveals that 11 internal investigations have been conducted over the past 12 months involving 15 employees of the Pine County sheriff's office.

The investigations were sparked by both internal and citizen complaints involving excessive force, sexual harassment, mishandling of property and evidence, and domestic violence, among others.  

One of the most troubling matters is an ongoing investigation into the handling of firearms in the custody of the Pine County sheriff's office. Sparked by citizen complaints of firearms not being properly returned to their rightful owners, an internal audit was started by Sheriff Cole shortly after he took office in January of 2011.

Investigators looking into the allegations determined that between 2008 and early 2011, twelve firearms confiscated or taken into evidence by the Pine County Sheriff's Department have gone missing.

The internal investigations conducted so far have produced disciplinary actions ranging from oral and written reprimands up to termination from employment.

Although he offered no comment on the current investigation, Pine County Commissioner Stephan Hallan has recently questioned the recent volume of personnel turnover in the Sheriff's department.

Former Commissioner Ed Montbriand said on Thursday that people in his downtown Pine City barber shop "think the Sheriff wants to make this run like a Minneapolis Department, metro, and it is not a metro area."

Montbriand said he had had no complaints about the department during his term on the Board, which ended in 2010, but noted the change of department head in 2011.

"[The voters] must have thought something, because the former Sheriff [Mark Mansavage] lost the election. So, they must have felt there was a need for a change," said Montbriand.

Robin Cole was a Minneapolis Police Lieutenant until his resignation in August, 2002.  He had become a Lieutenant under then Sheriff Mansavage, until he was fired by Mansavage in 2008.  Cole ran for sheriff in 2010, unseating incumbent Mansavage.  Cole began the year-long investigation into the department shortly after taking office in January, 2011.

While revealing the allegations against employees of his department, Sheriff Cole is also taking pains to recognize what he calls the majority of employees in his department who are doing honest and honorable work.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE and The Associated Press. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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