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Belfield officer fired after having sex while on duty

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Belfield officer fired after having sex while on duty
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

A Belfield Police officer was fired after admitting to having sex with a Belfield woman in his patrol car while on patrol, according to employee records.

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Former Sgt. Travis Carlson was placed on administrative leave as the Belfield Police Department’s K-9 officer on May 29 because of an investigation, Police Chief Nicky Barnhard wrote in an incident report obtained by The Dickinson Press. Carlson’s employment was then terminated during a Belfield City Council meeting on June 2.

In the report, Barnhard states he was contacted by a Belfield woman, who told him that she and Carlson had sex 15 to 20 times while the sergeant was on duty, as well as when he was off duty. They had sex in multiple places, including in Carlson’s patrol car and at City Hall.

Barnhard wrote that the woman had put her trust in Carlson and she had lied for him, though she could not continue lying. Barnhard said in the report that the woman should contact the city attorney, Sandra Kuntz, to report the incidents.

“(The woman) stated that she understood, and she blames herself for everything,” Barnhard wrote. “She knew it was wrong, but Travis kept playing mind games with her. I informed (the woman), ‘It’s not all her fault, and Travis knew what he was doing, so don’t put all the blame on yourself. It takes two to tango.”

The report also indicates Carlson and the woman sent text messages to each other with his personal phone, work phone and on Facebook.

Barnhard contacted Carlson and asked if the sergeant had sex with the woman.

“Sgt. Carlson was quiet for a few seconds and said, ‘We have been messing around,’” Barnhard wrote. “Carlson started crying and asked me for help. Sgt. Carlson stated that he needs help and he wants the City and me to help him.”

The council held an executive session, which was closed to the public, in regards to the termination. When asked why the meeting was closed, Mayor Leo Schneider said the week of the meeting because of “stuff in that that the public don’t need to know about.”

The Press has sought an opinion from the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office as to whether the meeting violated open meeting laws.

Schneider, Barnhard and Carlson did not immediately return calls to The Press.

Prior complaints

Other law enforcement agencies have also reported incidents regarding Carlson, including reports of him losing and abusing a K-9 dog in Dunn County.

While employed with the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office, the department reported the following incidents, according to a background check requested by the Belfield Police Department.

- Carlson allegedly lost the department’s K-9 dog at the end of March 2013 after it displayed behavior changes. There were also allegations that Carlson abused the dog by slapping the side of its ribcage as a form of discipline.

In interviews conducted by Legal Edge Solutions, Kuntz’s law firm, Dunn County Detective Ron McCloud dismissed any claims of abuse toward the K-9 dog.

Carlson took the dog to the vet after it became skittish, but Chief Deputy Matt Hegstad said the dog had always been skittish. He also said another employee, who was later fired, had started the rumors of Carlson abusing the dog.

“Travis loved that stupid dog,” McCloud said in the report.

- While on patrol, Carlson allegedly gave an unnamed woman a ride home in his patrol car after discovering her intoxicated inside of a car on a freezing winter night, according to the background check. The report did not give a date. During the incident, Carlson’s computer and camera system were down.

Approximately three days after the incident, an unnamed chief deputy raised question with Carlson, stating “Carlson tried to cover up transporting a female,” according to the background check. Carlson was cleared of wrongdoing by then-Sheriff Don Rockvoy, who declared Carlson had followed department policy by notifying state radio of the incident, according to the background check.

- Carlson allegedly lost two sets of civil service papers, according to the background check. In the report he claims they could have blown out of the window while assisting another agency.

“Another question is anybody could have taken the spare set of keys and grabbed the papers out of Sgt. Carlson’s squad car,” the background check stated.

Carlson was fired from the Dunn County Sheriff’s Office March 2013. The reason for leaving on his application was “asked to separate after losing K-9 partner.”

McCloud stated in interviews that Carlson was “a fine worker, and he worked harder than a lot of the deputies.” He added that morale was down at the sheriff’s office during the incident and supervisors had conflicts with everybody.

There were also issues reported when Carlson worked for the Williston Police Department, including improperly cataloging a firearm for evidence, having property belonging to another department, constant friction with staff members, and inappropriate touching and hugging of a woman.

“Travis did his own thing, and Travis alienated himself from most of the other officers,” Williston Police Sgt. Randy Haganow said in the report. “... Travis was difficult to train in due to Travis feeling like he knew it all.”

Carlson was a good worker that was aggressive with traffic but poor on follow-ups, Haganow said. The Williston officer said Carlson was “the cowboy type in general.”

Carlson quit at the Williston Police Department in August 2012, when he was hired by the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department. He also worked for the City of Lake Park, Minn., and the City of Akeley, Minn., as a police officer. There were no complaints in the background check from those two cities.

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April Baumgarten
April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, as the news editor. She works with a team of talented journalists and editors, who strive to give the Grand Forks area the quality news readers deserve to know. Baumgarten grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family continues to raise registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college,  she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as the Dickinson city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.   
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