Records reveal costs, logistics of Dakota Access Pipeline deployment

By Mike Kaszuba

New documents show that an estimated $431,000 was spent to send deputies from Hennepin, Washington, and Anoka counties to respond to protests at the Dakota Access Pipeline project in North Dakota last fall.

The records – obtained from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety by Public Record Media (PRM), a non-profit based in St. Paul – outline the costs and logistics involved in sending deputies to the protest site.  The three counties participated voluntarily, and costs were reimbursed by the state of North Dakota.

Hennepin County dispatched twenty nine deputies for more than a week at an estimated cost of $348,758, according to records obtained by PRM.  “Officers will be assisting in a situation involving civil unrest and criminal activities related to opposition [of] the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) project, primarily in southern Morton County in North Dakota,” a mission order authorization form stated.

Portions of the records obtained by PRM were heavily redacted, including the duties that the deputies would perform as part of a “Quick Response Force” and some aspects of the skills and equipment that might be needed.  North Dakota officials asked that out-of-state deputies preferably be “mobile field force trained (i.e. riot control, civil disturbance) and deploy as a team.”

According to the documents, North Dakota officials also noted that “environmental hazards exist” and that “personal protection equipment [would be] needed.”

Deputies dispatched under emergency compact

The deputies were sent to the North Dakota pipeline protests under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a mutual aid agreement between all 50 states that enables – but does not require – law enforcement agencies to respond to requests for help in other states and to receive subsequent reimbursement.

The pipeline protests centered on a proposal to build an oil pipeline extending from North Dakota to a shipping point in Illinois.  The plan has drawn concerns from the Standing Rock Sioux and other Native American tribes that it might pollute drinking water.  Since taking office in January, President Trump has pushed for the project to continue, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently ended further environmental review for the pipeline.

Request for assistance came on October 18, 2016

On October 18th, a North Dakota official sent an e-mail to Joseph Kelly, Minnesota’s homeland security and emergency management director, making an “urgent” request for as many as 50 law enforcement officers to help confront protesters.  “Officers may experience extended periods of exertion, and should be physically fit and prepared to operate in an outdoor environment with unpredictable weather,” North Dakota’s request stated.

Forms filed by North Dakota requested the deputies for a “desired deployment” of 16 days, starting on October 23rd.  A state official in Minnesota said that three of the state’s eighty seven counties responded to North Dakota’s inquiry.  According to documents obtained by PRM, Kelly signed agreements with the three Minnesota counties on October 21st, officially authorizing the deployments.

Equipment and personnel provided

Hennepin County pledged to bring thirteen vehicles, in addition to deploying twenty nine deputies.  Washington County planned to bring five deputies and two vehicles.  Anoka County was slated to bring five deputies, one supervisor, and three vehicles in addition to cold weather and support equipment.

Documents place the estimated cost for sending the Washington County deputies at $40,288.  The estimated cost for sending the Anoka County deputies was $42,472.