Law Enforcement Officers at Dakota Access Pipeline Protests Take Precautions After Social Media Threats

Dakota Access Pipeline crews leave the work site on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016, north of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Reservation. Work has not yet resumed in that area due to safety concerns surrounding the protest. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

Law enforcement personnel working at the Dakota Access Pipeline protest near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation are taking precautions not to advertise their identities after threats were made to specific officers both online and in person.

Currently work on the pipeline has been halted by Energy Transfer Partners due to safety concerns related to the on-going protests.

I spoke with Lt. Tom Iverson and Captain Aaron Hummel of the North Dakota Highway Patrol yesterday after I’d been told that their troopers had been told to stop wearing their name badges while working at the protest. Hummel confirmed that he had sent that advice out to their personnel in an email which he also provided to me. In it he also advised law enforcement personnel to review their social media presence to ensure privacy:

hummelemail

“Early on when we were down there at the front lines they did have their name tags on,” Iverson told me. Hummel’s order went out after Highway Patrol officials started noticing threats being made on social media.

“There were some specific threats naming specific officers,” Lt. Iverson told me during our conversation, saying that he couldn’t provide more details because the threats were part of an “active criminal investigation.” When I put in a formal records request for information regarding the threats Captain Hummel denied it citing section 44-04-18.7 of the North Dakota Century Code with exempts records related to on-going criminal investigations.

“There were some specific threats naming specific officers,” Lt. Iverson told me during our conversation, saying that he couldn’t provide more details because the threats were part of an “active criminal investigation.”

I reached out to the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and spokesman Rob Keller told me today they had taken similar precaution. “The wrong people got a name and started putting posts on social media,” he told me adding that he was “not at liberty” to provide any additional details because of on-going investigations.

Keller said that the law enforcement personnel were well trained and capable of handling the “stressful” situation at the protest. “The only unknown is what the other person will do,” he said.

Iverson and Hummel also confirmed an incident Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley alluded to last week in an interview. “Also early on, there was a substantiated case of people believed to be members of the protest traveling to Bismarck, going to the home of a member of the North Dakota Highway Patrol, walking around that property, then going back to their vehicle and leaving. Almost like a recon,” Wrigley told the Grand Forks Herald.

Iverson said the incident involved a state trooper who “felt he was being followed or someone was casing his home,” though he added that there was no official report on the incident and that it was not currently under investigation.

“At this point there is not a whole lot we can go off of,” he said.

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 noon-2pm weekdays.

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