PINE CITY, Minn. - The Sheriff of Pine County, Minnesota is offering more details of an internal department probe of alleged misconduct that could eventually lead to criminal charges.
Sheriff Robin Cole met with reporters Monday morning to answer questions and elaborate on complaints made by citizens and employees of the sheriff's department that range from sexual harassment and abuse of power to missing weapons.
"Everyone realizes that this stuff has been going on. It has been kept quiet. You want to call it the 'good old boys club', you want to call it whatever, it has gone on and it will not go on any longer," said Cole.
The investigation is said to involve the actions of 15 Pine County Sheriff's department employees. Cole says the probe could lead to criminal charges against some of those employees. He says he is sharing information with the media to "dispel rumors and misinformation circulating in the community."
Cole specifically addressed the issue of 12 weapons confiscated from citizens that disappeared from the department's property room between 2008 and 2011.
Cole says that records show a number of guns that were confiscated from citizens were supposed to be returned to them after cases were adjudicated. Followup shows the weapons were never returned.
"I cannot change what happened prior to my taking office. We can try to make this right, and act to ensure this does not happen again," said Cole.
Sheriff Cole says steps have been taken to prevent future abuses. Access to the property room has been severely limited. Old locks have been changed and video cameras have been installed.
Pine County Commissioner Mitch Pangerl appeared at the news conference to voice his support for Cole. Like the Sheriff, Pangerl took office in January 2011.
"These allegations and violations of standard procedures should never happen in any organization especially one that is charged with the duties of serving and protecting its citizens. I want to thank Sheriff Cole for working closely with the board to make right these wrongs," said Pangerl.
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