Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney said Saturday his decision to send deputies to Morton County, North Dakota, the site of protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline, is about public safety.
In an interview with News 3, Mahoney said 10 Dane County deputies will join other Wisconsin law enforcement officers in providing front-line law enforcement alongside North Dakota officers, who have been working since the protests began in August.
Mahoney said his deputies will provide much-needed relief to North Dakota law enforcement officers.
"Yesterday...the governor of North Dakota declared a national emergency, because law enforcement was being strained," Mahoney said. "The officers are beginning to be worn down and I know from experience, watching demonstrations around the country, that when law enforcement officers become extremely fatigued, oftentimes without adequate time to recharge their batteries if you will, bad things happen, bad decisions are made."
Members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and environmentalists have protested the construction of the pipeline, which will carry about 450,000 barrels of oil per day from North Dakota's Bakken oil fields to Illinois, claiming it passes over sacred grounds and will be a threat to the environment.
Mahoney said his deputies will respect the rights of all sides of the protest.
"At the end of the day, our No. 1 priority is public safety. We know that people have been injured on both sides of this issue, we know that there have been dogs let loose on demonstrators," Mahoney said. "Our job is to ensure that we use our level of professionalism, our training and our experience to prevent that from occurring and to protect everybody's rights."
Those dogs, Mahoney said, were let loose by a private security company.
"The wrong decision was made by that security company to let those dogs loose," he said.
Mahoney previously traveled to the state in September to consult local officials on best practices when dealing with protestors, using his agency's experiences in handling protests at the state capitol in 2011.
Mahoney said North Dakota officials will reimburse Dane County for its expenses in sending deputies to the state and for the costs of filling the deputies' positions while they are away.
"It will be cost-neutral for us to be engaged in this," Mahoney said.
Mahoney said each deputy was individually selected for his or her training, skill set, temperament and level of experience.