Fargo Leaders Are Absolutely in the Wrong to Question #NoDAPL Law Enforcement Costs

Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney, operations chief at the Dakota Access Pipeline protest site in Morton County, consults with members of the Operations Unit. Laney is sitting down. Standing, from left to right, are Mandan Police Chief Jason Ziegler, Lt. Rich Reichenberger with the Wisconsin Highway Patrol and Cass County Detective Tonya Jahner. Special to The Forum.

News this evening is that a group of Fargo and Cass County leaders are beginning to question the use of county/municipal law enforcement personnel and resources in the response to the #NoDAPL protests.

Fargo City Commissioner John Strand (who visited the #NoDAPL protest camps to support them earlier this year), with an assist from fellow Commissioner Tony Gehrig, put the issue on the agenda for their December 5 meeting Cass County Commissioner Ken Pawluk is also pursing the matter.

There are some things the commissioners need to be aware of as they open this can of worms.

First, right now North Dakota is going it alone on the #NoDAPL issue. Early on the state was getting assistance from other states through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. Law enforcement from states like Minnesota, Ohio, and Wyoming, have come to the state to help patrol the protests. But law enforcement agencies in other states are no longer answering the requests due to political blow back from those supporting the protests.

…we should remember that the deployment of these officers isn’t costing Fargo or Cass County anything. “The state is paying for the salary, per diem and lodging,” Dohrman told me. “Additionally, to lessen the impact to agencies responding outside of Morton County, the state is covering the overtime cost, back home, of the supporting agencies.”

“Early on we had a number of states support our request for peace officer support,” Major General Al Dohrmann of the North Dakota National Guard told me in an email tonight. “Unfortunately, all jurisdictions that supported us were subject to protest in their own cities and capitols for providing support to North Dakota, along with intense pressure from various groups to not support North Dakots’s efforts to maintain the peace and rule of law.”

The state also hasn’t received much in the way of support from the federal government, despite the protesters who are camping (illegally) on federal property after being organized by a federally-recognized Native American tribe operating in a vacuum created by delays in issuing a federal easement to complete the pipeline project. “While I appreciate the Attorney General taking the time to reach out to me, neither assistance for law enforcement nor a timeline for resolution was offered,” Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said of a recent conversation with Obama cabinet member Loretta Lynch. “I hope the dialogue continues, but it’s time for more actions from the federal government, not more words.”

There are thousands of protesters in south central North Dakota and just a few hundred law enforcement personnel pulled from departments around the state to try and uphold the law. If Fargo pulls their support, the situation will be dire.

Second, we should remember that the deployment of these officers isn’t costing Fargo or Cass County anything. “The state is paying for the salary, per diem and lodging,” Dohrmann told me. “Additionally, to lessen the impact to agencies responding outside of Morton County, the state is covering the overtime cost, back home, of the supporting agencies.”

These local leaders say they’re concerned about costs. Are they not aware of this?

The Obama administration is already hanging North Dakota out to dry on this matter with their delay in issuing the easement and refusal to send law enforcement resources to support Morton County. On top of that, coordinated protests in other states have cut off another avenue support.

If these local leaders push to pull back Cass County and City of Fargo law enforcement resources as well we should consider whether or not they’re fit to hold the offices they’re currently elected to.

What I’m afraid this will do is open up Fargo and Cass County as another front in the #NoDAPL fight to foment chaos in Morton County.

On a related note, next time Fargo/Cass County is fighting a flood or some other calamity, I hope North Dakota’s other political jurisdictions don’t start pinching pennies and putting time caps on their willingness to help.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from 1-2pm weekdays.

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