The Grand Forks, N.D., Herald looks into the March 2014 suicide of Fargo police Lt. Jeff Skuza, amid a drawn-out internal affairs process that left him in limbo for more than three weeks after he tried to cover up a minor mistake. Police union officials have criticized delays in the internal review process for officers accused of wrongdoing. The issue has resurfaced as Fargo moves to name a new permanent police chief, with a decision expected in the next six weeks. The review process has become even longer under the interim chief, David Todd, who was appointed last fall.
On Feb. 14, 2014, Skuza was doing a routine check of his Taser when he accidentally fired it into a barrel designated for making sure weapons are unloaded. Skuza attempted to cover up this mistake before eventually coming clean to his superiors. On March 11, he fatally shot himself hours after learning that the department’s three deputy chiefs had all recommended that he be fired. Skuza’s widow, Sherrie Skuza, sharply criticized Police Chief Keith Ternes, who later resigned under fire, for failing to act promptly. “Each hour (Ternes) put off the decision was like another nail in Jeff ‘s coffin,” she wrote in a letter to a newspaper.