Reporting Reg Chapman
PINE CITY, Minn. (WCCO) – In the past year, the Pine County Sheriff’s Office has conducted nearly a dozen internal investigations involving 15 of its employees.
On Monday, the sheriff spoke out about those investigations and the possibility of criminal charges in the future.
The allegations came from within the department, as well as from Pine County residents.
They involved excessive force, sexual harassment and domestic violence.
But the biggest complaint was about missing guns that were confiscated by deputies.
Sheriff Robin Cole took office just more than a year ago. He said it was a fluke, that he stumbled across paperwork showing a number of guns were taken from the property room, and assigned to deputies.
Now, there is a push to right the wrongs and change the culture of the department.
“I was having visits from community members I would say two to three times a week,” said Cole.
Cole said the complaints from the community kept coming in, forcing him to launch an internal investigation.
The ongoing investigation that may lead to criminal charges deals with guns.
“It appears that 12 firearms have mysteriously disappeared from our property room. What happened to those guns, we may never know,” Cole said.
Sheriff Cole says in 2008 the previous administration held an auction to dispose of forfeited firearms and 170 guns were sold.
Later that year, paperwork showed a number of guns taken from the property room were assigned to deputies.
But a review showed those guns were documented as sold at auction.
“We’ve implemented a whole bunch of changes in this agency,” Cole said.
The property room has added security measures and cameras, access to the room has been extremely limited.
The department has also been restructured so that every employee now has a direct supervisor.
It’s a push in the right direction but some feeling of mistrust still remains.
“Were there for them not to oppress them or arrest them but were there for them,” Cole said.
We could not find anyone in Pine City who would talk on camera about the allegations against the Sheriff’s department.
The reported allegations include excessive force and abuse of authority.
Sheriff Cole says other departments are involved in those investigations to avoid a conflict of interest.