ARGUS LEADER, argusleader.com
BYLINE: Jonathan Ellis,
Flandreau Police Department logo
In January of 2013, several agents with the state Division of Criminal Investigation descended on the Flandreau Police Department.
What started as an investigation into missing drug money soon turned into an investigation of the entire department.
Much of what they found was never made public.
One police officer was eventually prosecuted for stealing money. But that officer, Stephan Nelson, triggered a wider investigation into police corruption when he told agents that others in the department were breaking the law.
The DCI investigation revealed that one police officer committed burglary by breaking into a building. Other police officers were found to be taking items from the evidence locker – including firearms and booze – for personal use. There was an allegation that a man was beaten and pepper sprayed in the face while handcuffed and in police custody, and DCI agents uncovered a flimsy no-knock drug raid based on a Flandreau officer sneaking around outside a home and peeping through windows
Few people learned the full story, and the DCI investigation wasn’t made public. Once it was completed, the Flandreau City Council demanded the resignations of Chief Mike Eisenbarth and his sergeant, Jesse Doyle.
Three years after they resigned, the episode is under scrutiny again. Moody County Sheriff Troy Wellman hired Eisenbarth last month as a deputy after Eisenbarth took a three-year hiatus from law enforcement. Eisenbarth’s hiring prompted outrage among some residents, and somebody with access to the DCI investigation leaked portions to the public.
The investigation found that questionable police practices had existed for years.
“There was a tremendous failure in leadership,” Moody County State’s Attorney Paul Lewis said in an interview last week. “There absolutely was.”
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