- David Brake
Hundreds of Native Americans, politicians, celebrities and environmental activists have traveled to the Peace Garden State as a show of strength and support for the movement to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) from proceeding on its planned route near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and under the Missouri River near Cannonball, North Dakota. More than 300 Indian nations and 21 city and county governments have joined the opposition to the pipeline.
A similar number of law enforcement personnel have also journeyed to the same destination, but on the other side of a very big dividing line. That includes 37 officers from Indiana.
The Morton County Sheriff's Department requested assistance in policing the protests against the pipeline. According to the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) — a mutual aid agreement between all 50 states — participating states can send assistance on a volunteer basis.
"A requesting state asks for resources (people, equipment, etc.) based on their needs," says Indiana Department of Homeland Security Public Information Officer Bruce Gordon. "Agencies in other states with those resources are able to respond to a request, but there is no obligation or order to participate."
When Indiana receives a request, Gordon says it is the agency's practice to offer resources, if those resources are available. "When a request is received, IDHS offers the opportunity to agencies that then let IDHS know if they have resources to provide. While we, as a state, have been fortunate to not need out-of-state assistance recently, we know that we may need assistance from other states someday, so we work to build those relationships."
This law was passed by the Clinton administration in 1996 and allows states to share law enforcement forces during emergencies. While intended for natural disasters, it has been used twice for protests: once in the summer of 2015 during the demonstrations in Baltimore and now on the Standing Rock Reservation.
Ohio sent 37 highway patrol officers to "assist with security." Indiana also sent 37 officers, as well as their duty vehicles and equipment, according to the Homeland Security PIO, with the mission to "provide support to North Dakota."
In the last week of October, more than 300 police officers in riot gear, eight ATVs, five armored vehicles, two helicopters and numerous military-grade Humvees arrived at the frontline camp just east of Highway 1806.
Anticipating a long fight, the North Dakota emergency commission approved an additional $4 million loan to pay for additional law enforcement.
The state of North Dakota is paying expenses for bringing in law enforcement help. "North Dakota will reimburse Indiana for costs that are related to the deployment," Gordon reports.
However, North Dakota isn't reimbursing all expenses. The state doesn't pay for replacement officers filling in at home for those absent. Nor does the state cover mileage on squad cars, per diem or overtime.
That contributed to the Dane County (Wisconsin) Sheriff's decision not to replace officers at the end of their one-week commitment in October. The primary reason was that, after talking with "a wide cross-section of the community who all share the opinion that our deputies should not be involved in this situation," Sheriff Dave Mahoney decided to end participation, according to the Bismarck Tribune.
The planned rotation of three teams of deputies was canceled. Ten deputies and three supervisors of the Dane County Special Events Team plus a group of 43 Wisconsin officers were scheduled to provide support at the construction site of the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline. The Wisconsin State Patrol, which sent 17 people, also ended deployment early, said Patricia Mayers, DOT spokesperson. Likewise, Rock County's five officers, and two of four sent from St. Croix County came home.
Indiana's 37 officers and equipment were expected to return home November 7. IDHS has not confirmed if that actually occurred.
Complaints that a militarized police force has been brought in to protect corporate interests (the pipeline project is private, not a federal project) against peaceful, unarmed protesters, has drawn interest from other agencies.
As a result of the militarized police action, Amnesty International announced it is sending observers to North Dakota, and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is sending a representative to the site.
In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union is reportedly looking into the Morton County Sheriff's Department for use of excessive force, denying Indigenous people's right to pray, escalation of tension through police militarization, unlawful arrests and unlawful practices of apprehension.