City of Emily deactivates police department as chief deals with theft charge

A small city in Crow Wing County has deactivated its police department as its chief deals with theft allegations.

Court documents state that 38-year-old Damien Robert Stalker, from the city of Emily, is charged with one count of gross misdemeanor theft after he allegedly took herbal supplements from a local store without paying for them.

A criminal complaint states that Stalker took $942.47 worth of kratom extract products from Feb. 1 through Feb. 16. When questioned by an investigator, Stalker allegedly admitted to taking the products, saying he had an agreement to pay the business back at a later time. However, the store’s manager said they had no such agreement.

The National Institutes of Health says kratom is used by some people to alleviate pain, help manage mental health problems or aid with drug withdrawal symptoms and cravings, although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any of its products.

Stalker took over as the police chief of Emily — a city of around 800 people, located around 30 miles northeast of Brainerd — last June after serving as the assistant chief, city documents show.

During an emergency city council meeting on March 1, the council unanimously approved taking disciplinary measures to approve placing a city employee on paid administrative leave with benefits, pending the results of an investigation, which is being conducted by a third party.

While Stalker wasn’t explicitly mentioned as the person put on leave, City Attorney Tom Pearson said afterward, “At this point, this is just doing the prudent thing in my opinion, which is to put the chief on leave while this is pending because of the reasons stated earlier.”

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached out to the city to confirm Stalker was placed on paid leave, but the city declined to comment.

The council then held another emergency meeting on March 10 and voted to “temporarily deactivate” the police department because a department can’t operate without a chief. The council noted the city explored hiring an acting chief, but that “did not work out.”

While the police department is deactivated, the Crow Wing County Sheriff’s Office is providing extra coverage for the city and the township of Little Pine, according to the city.

The theft charge Stalker is facing is a gross misdemeanor and carries a maximum punishment of one year in jail and a $3,000 fine. He’s charged via summons and isn’t in custody, and his first court appearance is scheduled for May 10.

Damien Stalker is introduced as the new police chief for the city of Emily, Minn., in June 2022. (Courtesy: City of Emily/Facebook)