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Hennepin County sheriff's deputies returning from Dakota Access Pipeline protests

The Hennepin County Sheriff's deputies (and their batons) have fulfilled their obligations to the state of North Dakota.

The Hennepin County Sheriff's deputies (and their batons) have fulfilled their obligations to the state of North Dakota.

The Hennepin County sheriff's deputies who played a central role in quashing Native American protests of a North Dakota oil pipeline are on their way home. 

Not, mind you, because Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek had a change of heart. Stanek didn't suddenly understand the Minneapolis protesters who petitioned his office last week, telling him to stop sending local officers to a far-off clash over where -- and whether -- the Dakota Access Pipeline would run.

And the chief hasn't issued any statement about video showing Hennepin deputies wielding batons and mace to drive protesters back last Thursday, a day when 141 protesters were arrested. 

A spokesman for the sheriff's office in Morton County, North Dakota, tells Minnesota Public Radio the Minnesota delegation of law enforcement officers had fulfilled its duties. (Deputies from suburban Washington County and Anoka County had also traveled across two states to be there.) Their committments ended Monday, after which they were free to leave.

Minnesota's counties were responding to a declaration of emergency in North Dakota, and joined Morton County under an Emergency Management Assistance Contract (EMAC). That means North Dakota picks up the tab for all costs Hennepin County incurs during the duration of its assistance. 

Said assistance is voluntary, and is the decision of the local agency, which explains why three out of Minnesota's 87 counties responded to the call coming from eight hours west of the Twin Cities metro. 

"Agencies in other states with those resources are able to respond to a request," Department of Public Safety spokesman Bruce Gordon told MPR, "but there is no obligation or order to participate."

A small group of liberal legislators met with Stanek last week and pressed for answers on what the county had done, and why; Stanek informed them that his office had dispatched about 30 deputies. 

Rep. Peggy Flanagan, DFL-St. Louis Park, one of two Native Americans in the Minnesota House of Representatives, says she told Stanek he would need to work to repair trust with the Native American community.

"Because it has been incredibly damaged," Flanagan told MPR, "and there will have to be much intent and strategy going forward to rebuild it."