That includes not just the cost of having police go to the protest site but also to ensure there’s enough officers on the street here in Fargo, he told the City Commission on Monday, Dec. 5.
The costs, however, are all being reimbursed from the state, he said.
The chief also reassured commissioners that Fargo officers have demonstrated great restraint with none having used pepper spray or fire hoses.
Law enforcement at the protest site, which includes agencies from around the country, have been criticized for using both on protesters, many of them American Indians convinced the pipeline just north of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation will pollute the Missouri River and disturb sacred ground.
Todd spoke to the commission but his report was requested by two commissioners. Commissioner John Strand, a member of the city’s Native American Commission, has said he’s concerned about respect for Indian culture. Commissioner Tony Gehrig said residents have asked him about the costs to local taxpayers.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Sunday declined an application from Energy Transfer Partners for an easement to tunnel the Dakota Access Pipeline under the river near the reservation. That stretch is the only section of the $3.8 billion, nearly 1,200-mile pipeline that has not been completed.
Todd said he expects that would reduce tensions.
Also at the commission meeting was Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley and members of the Native American Commission, who later convened a forum to discuss their concerns.
Todd, backed up by Mayor Tim Mahoney, said Fargo police have an obligation to come to the aid of other law enforcement agencies when asked, all the more so because it’s the largest agency in the state.
And Fargo has had to lean on other agencies for help during the chief’s tenure in the past two years.
Officers from outside agencies came to Fargo’s aid when a large brawl broke out downtown, Todd said. They came after Officer Jason Moszer was killed in the line of duty in February and his colleagues needed time to mourn, the chief said, and again when his colleagues needed time off to attend the funeral.
“That’s how North Dakota law enforcement works,” Todd said. “That’s how it has to work. None of us are so big that we don’t need each other’s help.”
Fargo police were sent to Morton County between Aug. 23 and Nov. 20, according to a report the chief gave to commissioners. At one point, there were as many as 49 Fargo officers there in response to a major incident. The department had to move shifts and increase their duration to 12 hours to ensure the number of officers on Fargo’s streets wasn’t affected.
In total, the department has requested $448,000 in reimbursements, $207,000 of which has been paid by the state and the rest is pending. On average, it costs around $55,000 every two weeks except early on in the protest and in late October-early November when costs more than tripled to $186,000.
Todd said when officers are sent to Morton County they are often accompanied by commanders, who ensure they behave responsibly and are deployed responsibly.
He told commissioners that his department holds no official position on the pipeline, serving only to ensure the rule of law, that protesters have a right to protest and private property owners, including the pipeline company, have the right to their property.
Gehrig expressed satisfaction that questions posed by residents have been answered, which is why the city is sending police to Morton County and if local taxpayers are on the hook.
Strand said he is glad police respect the right to protest peacefully.
Indians speak out
Members of the Native American Commission, which has expressed solidarity with peaceful protesters, didn’t speak at the City Commission meeting. They saved their discussion for their forum, which Wrigley also attended.
Several at the forum spoke about the heartache Indians feel over the Dakota Access Pipeline connecting it to the long history of mistreatment by the United States government. They didn’t speak directly to the police response but asked to be understood.
Donald Warne, chairman of North Dakota State University’s Public Health Department, said non-Indians often do not appreciate the depth of Indians’ feelings about the sacredness of their land. They also don’t appreciate Indians’ long memories of broken treaties, he said.
Warne is an an enrolled member of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
Sharon White Bear, a member of the Native American Commission and enrolled member with the Three Affiliated Tribes, spoke to Wrigley about how her grandparents were forced to move out of their home to make way for the Garrison Dam and Lake Sakakawea. She said she might seem over emotional but she’s fighting for her history.