Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier joined us from Bismarck to discuss the Dakota Access pipeline protests and law enforcement's role there.
(Please note - this transcript was copied from an electronic captioning service. We apologize for any errors, spelling, grammatical, or otherwise.)
Paul Laney: Again today, just come off the private property. Back to the big camp and let's talk. Let's try to figure out a solution for this. And their message was absolutely not. We're standing here. At some point rule of law has to be enforced. Sheriff Kirchmeier said it over and over again.
Chris Berg: That is Paul Laney earlier today after trying to negotiate with Dakota Access Pipeline protesters that are illegally camping on private land. Also breaking news tonight's about what these protesters are costing you and I, the North Dakota taxpayer. We're going to hear from Morton county sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier in just a few moments. Good evening and welcome to "Point of View." I'm Chris Berg. Thank you for joining us. We told you last night about this group of protesters. They've now set up just east of highway 1806 and they said this is their no surrender line. In fact, during the negotiations today, Sheriff Laney basically said if you all are not going to go back to the big camp where you can go and protest, then we're going to force our hand to follow the law and take some action. One of the protesters said, and I'm quoting here -- hey, do what you got to do. Also while sheriff Laney was trying to negotiate the deal, one of the protesters basically threatened -- might be a little strong word -- threatened sheriff Laney by saying, hey, look, there are young men that are willing to cause issues. Here is just part of that exchange.
Protester: There is young men that are willing to --
PL: I understand that. And we don't want that to happen.
Protester: You're going to bring on.
PL: What are we supposed to do?
CB: This is how insane this entire situation has become. Sheriff Laney is simply letting these people know that if they do not stop illegally camping on private property, he's gonna be forced to actually enforce the law. And that gentleman you just saw stole him hey, there is going to be actions taken that are gonna cause young men to stir up trouble and possibly cause a confrontation with law enforcement. I've been saying now for weeks, it is time for these militant eco-terrorists to get out of our great state. I'm gonna tell you specifically why. This is breaking news.
I just got a phone call before coming on the air about the cost of these protests. So far there have been 246 people arrested. 246 people arrested. .223 caliber of them, they're not even from North Dakota. Only 9% of the people arrested are actually from our great state. Morton County Sheriff Public Information Officer just called me and told me that the cost of the protest now per day -- wait 'til you hear this -- per day at current cost for the state in Morton County combined, $500,000 per day. Morton County has already spent $3 million and the state of North Dakota, you're not going to believe this, this is the end of September has already spent of your tax dollars, $7 million battling these militant eco protesters. If that does not cause concern for you, I don't know what will.
So with us tonight to give us more detail on what's happening on the ground there from our Bismarck studio in Morton is Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier. First up, I just want to say thank you. I know you're so overextended. Thank you for giving us a few minutes of your time and thank you for alt great work you're doing. I want to start with this to give you a chance to comments on it. I am stunned when I hear that now these protesters are causing the great people of North Dakota and the citizens of your county, Morton County combined, $500,000 per day. You say what to that, sir?
Kyle Kirchmeier: Well, that has been obviously the resources has been a very important thing as we've been going through this. It costs a lot of money to be able to sustain what we're doing to make sure public safety is maintained so that the $500,000 a day is a lot of money and just that one number, we are approaching -- to correct that a little bit -- we're approaching the $6 million figure now.
CB: It's shocking when I hear that. When you say 6 million, you are talking about the state, but it's already 3 million for Morton County. Correct?
CB: All right. Let's move on to this because you hear what will happen there in that quote, unquote, negotiation with sheriff laney where that gentleman said hey, if you want to do that, there is young people that will stir things up. My question to you specifically, do you feel these protesters are purposely trying to instigate some sort of interaction with law enforcement that could obviously go bad? If so, why? Like what's their game to try to instigate something with law enforcement?
KK: Well, I think as we go through this, from the very beginning, safety for everybody involved has been number one. But there are definitely instay -- instigators in there that want us to come and arrest them. For whatever reason that is, I don't know. For their cause, if it thinks it will help them as they're going along here, I'm not 100% sure. But the biggest thing I'm concerned about is the safety for everybody involved.
CB: I want to get to this because as you know, Chairman Archambault has called the Department of Justice for a civil rights investigation because he says he's concerned about being people hurt. There has been law enforcement abuses, including unlawful arrests. One of the things he's pointing at is the militarization of the police. Give us some clarity as to, number one, do you think it's necessary for the police down there to have this military type equipment. And if so, why specifically?
KK: Well, yes, because that equipment is equipment that we use every day in our jobs. This is nothing special that has been brought out. It's equipment that we have at the sheriff's department and around the sheriff's departments around the state. It's used for safety. We got to make sure that the officers, while they're out there trying to do their job, are protected. And this is the way we do it. Law enforcement all have weapons and they keep saying, we have weapons, yes, we do. Because that's our job.
CB: I think what they would say, they go yeah, but keep yourself safe. We're not doing anything to harm anybody. We're just lobbing ourselves to equipment or maybe standing in a line. I think that would be to play devil's advocate they would say. What do you say to that?
KK: Well there, is a lot of information and information that we have, intelligence type stuff about weapons. We've seen knives on them, posts. That type of thing. Also the pepper spray, bear spray, that type of thing is also out on the line. There is all kinds of things that are on that we see and we get reports of. We have to make sure that we respond to that appropriately to be able to protect ourselves while we're trying to keep everybody else safe.
CB: Sheriff, one of the great things about having you on is you have been the boots on the ground. On western Minnesota, you see all the things on social media. We see some news reports. I want to share with you a couple things that have been flying around social media and give you a chance to respond. This is a recent Facebook post that somebody put up. I want to let you respond to that. It says this: After raising weapons -- maybe you can see it on the screen next to you -- police covered lockdowns, heads and poured excessive amounts of water over their heads when cutting them out, as well as zip tying other parts of their bodies to the locked down vehicle, contorting their bodies in unbearable positions while saying things like let's see how long you last like this. No matter what you think, this pipeline is going through no matter what. Is it accurate that this heady thing this guy has on and if so, why?
KK: That there, that individual has on is a spit hood. It's a standard spit hood that is used when people that are arrested or in this situation, spit on the officers. And this is we've done. An officer was spit on, which is a felony offense. That hood was put on to protect the officer from any other bodily fluids.
CB: This post alleges there was water poured on this person, like trying to allege water boarding. Did any of that take place, sir?
KK: No. There is no water boarding. We actually give them water when they're thirsty. We take care of them as much as possible. We do cover them up at certain times to protect them with blankets, depending on what we have to do to cut that individual out in a position that he put himself in. We are trying to protect his safety while we cut him or un-attach him from what he has attached him so to. They have ways to un-attach themselves, but they don't do it. Hoping that we do something wrong while we're trying to protect them.
CB: This is one of the things that's been flying around social media. This is a clip from a show called the Young Turks or online program. This is one of the respected elders from standing rock, la Donna brave Bullard. She's talking about her daughter getting arrested. She wasn't certain or got clarity in her words, why her daughter was arrested and one of the things that obviously chairman talk being is that the strip searches -- I want to share with you what la Donna said about what happened to her daughter after she was arrested and then give you a chance to clarify and comment, sir.
Mother: She had said to me, mom, they took me in a room and three male officers, one female officer stripped her naked and then they took her naked and they put her in a jail cell and left her there all night.
CB: Was she stripped naked and left in a jail cell all night, sir?
KK: No. Everything that we do in the jail, they are unclothed assessments that are done, body assessments. Because when individuals are put into the population, we have to make sure that there is no contraband brought into that facility. It's secure facility. But no. That did not occur while she was in that jail cell with three female officers and we have the video to prove it.
CB: Thank you. Last thing, you know as well as I do, that the media doesn't always get things right. We don't always get the right information. Neither does social media. What is the single most important thing that people need to know on the ground there that the media is not covering?
KK: Well, I think the biggest thing is how this affects the farmers and ranchers in that area and everybody involved. There is a lot of things that are going on, a lot of farmers and ranchers have been stopped, trespassed upon their land. They're afraid to go places. They have to get their work done, the fall work done. This is very important. That's why we have throughout this, have increased patrols to make sure everybody is safe. That has been number one from the very beginning. I want to keep everybody in Morton County know that law enforcement is around and that we will respond to their needs.
CB: Sheriff, thank you for your time. We're all praying for all of you. I know you're overextended and this thing is a tinder box. Let us know what we can do to support you. Okay?
KK: Thank you very much.
CB: Thank you, sir. All right. Stay with us. When we come back, we'd love to know your thoughts on what he had to say. We look forward to having him back in the future. Coming up next, Becker commissioner Ben Grimsley will join us. He's running against far cart. You can E-mail us, text us, we'll be right back.