PIERRE, S.D. (Press Release) – Four sworn complaints were recently filed with the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office Law Enforcement Officer Standards & Training Commission seeking the immediate and permanent revocation of law enforcement certifications of Brown County Sheriff Mark Milbrandt (R), Brown County Chief Deputy David Lunzman (R), former Brown County Deputy Ross Erickson, and recently hired Madison police officer Mathew Wollman (R).
The Commission made news in December 2018 when it charged and subsequently revoked Marshall County’s Sheriff Dale Elsen’s (D) SD law enforcement certification for making inappropriate sexual comments. In December 2017, a U.S. Court judge awarded former DCI Special Agent Laura Kaiser over $1.5 Million in damages and costs against the state of South Dakota in a verdict stemming from sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation suffered by Kaiser while working jointly with the Brown County Sheriff’s Office. Governor Noem’s 2018 Republican primary win over former Attorney General Marty Jackley is credited by many to Noem’s negative campaign TV ads in which Noem used the Kaiser court judgement to mock Jackley being tough on crime and attacked Jackley for dismissing and ignoring Kaiser’s complaints. Despite these facts, neither the Commission nor Governor Noem filed complaints with the Commission to address the notorious illegal and unethical conduct of the offending officers who cost the state of South Dakota over $1.5 Million.
The Commission was the subject of recent Legislative hearings in SB127. Legislators and former law enforcement officers expressed concerns publicly and in private that there appears to be a double set of standards in how the Commission deals with persons who are politically connected.
“The illegal actions highlighted in these four filed complaints make the misconduct Sheriff Elsen’s was accused of, pale in comparison.” Said Senator Stace Nelson (R-Fulton) who filed the complaints. “There is nothing worse in law enforcement than bad cops. Allowing people who have been proven to be dishonest and unethical, to remain in authority over the public as law enforcement officers, defeats the whole purpose of the Commission and is a massive failure to protect South Dakotans.” South Dakota has witnessed some significant criminal cases involving law enforcement officers in the news over the last several years. Some are concerned that it is a symptom of failings in our Commission to police the police and of ensuring SD’s law enforcement employment standards are properly adhered to. “We have a new Attorney General with Jason Ravnsborg and the Commission under him will be staffed with his new appointments. We briefly discussed concerns about these problems and he expressed willingness to review the Commission to see where it can be improved upon to ensure efficient, fair, and consistent high law enforcement standards of conduct are being equally enforced across South Dakota.”
Senator Nelson is a retired NCIS federal agent, and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.