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Wahpeton police officer suspended for arresting teen with lack of probable cause

WAHPETON, N.D. - A police officer here has been suspended for five days without pay and must take 40 hours of remedial law enforcement training as punishment for arresting a juvenile with a lack of probable cause - an incident the teenager recorded and posted as a YouTube video that went viral.

Police Chief Scott Thorsteinson announced the disciplinary action against Officer Dustin Hill in a news release dated Monday.

Hill arrested 17-year-old Robert Wanek of Breckenridge, Minn., on May 6 outside the Richland-Wahpeton Law Enforcement Center for interfering with a police investigation.

"Although later determined to have been made with insufficient probable cause, Officer Hill's arrest in this case was made in good faith and without malice," Thorsteinson wrote.

After receiving Hill's account of the arrest, his on-duty supervisor "began taking immediate steps" to arrange for Wanek's release, Thorsteinson wrote.

"The juvenile was released after being detained for 32 minutes," Thorsteinson wrote. "It is my opinion that the sergeant did everything within his power and authority to mitigate this situation."

Hill's five-day suspension took effect Friday. His law enforcement training, which will have an emphasis on Wahpeton municipal ordinances and state and constitutional law, will be completed by June 1, 2012, Thorsteinson wrote.

"Officer Hill is hereby notified that any future incidents of a similar nature will result in his termination from employment," he wrote.

In addition, all Wahpeton Police Department members will attend in-service training regarding the rules of arrest and constitutional law "so as to avoid any recurrences of this incident," Thorsteinson wrote.

The YouTube video of Wanek's arrest garnered more than 150,000 hits and, as Thorsteinson noted in the news release, "drew national and international attention."

In the video, Wanek claims to be standing on a public street, filming for a documentary. He tells Hill he is shooting a video on illegal raids, and it appears Hill immediately walks up to Wanek and arrests him.

Wanek claims in the video he was detained for an hour but his parents were not called nor was he read his Miranda rights before he was interviewed.

Wanek told The Forum on Tuesday he's "satisfied with the reprimand in its entirety," adding, "I think the chief did his job."

"I guess I feel as far as the internal investigation, it serves justice to the situation," he said. "I was really impressed with the continued police education that was added in by the chief."