- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 1, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Sheriff’s deputies from three Minnesota counties have left the front lines of the Dakota Access pipeline protest in North Dakota and are back in Minnesota, where hundreds of people last week objected to their involvement in helping to clear out demonstrators.

The sheriffs from Hennepin, Anoka and Washington counties said Tuesday that their deputies have fulfilled their duties under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a national system for sharing personnel during a state of emergency.

The sheriffs held their news conference a day after some Democratic leaders criticized them for sending help.

“We did the right thing here,” said Washington County Sheriff William Hutton. “When it comes to public safety, we received a call for help, and we responded to it.”

Hundreds of people have been protesting in southern North Dakota for months, supporting the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s opposition to the $3.8 billion pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois. Officers from several states have been helping North Dakota authorities with the response.

Some, including Democratic Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, think Minnesota’s should not have helped North Dakota. At a meeting with Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek on Monday, several DFL legislators questioned the process of deputies disrupting “a peaceful protest in a neighboring state,” Rep. Karen Clark, DFL-Minneapolis, said in a statement.

Stanek said Tuesday: “Our involvement in North Dakota was operational, not political … public safety should never be partisan.”

Rob Keller, the spokesman for the Morton County Sheriff’s Office in North Dakota, said the Minnesota officers fulfilled their duty under the agreement and were sent home.

Deputies from the Dane County Sheriff’s Office in Wisconsin also helped at the protest for about a week and returned in mid-October. Sheriff Dave Mahoney said at the time that his office would not rotate new deputies to the protest as he planned after talking to community members who felt Dane County should not be involved. Mahoney told the Wisconsin State Journal that a reduced reimbursement of costs also played a part in his decision.

Wyoming, Nebraska, South Dakota and Indiana were also listed among states that have sent help. A spokesman for the Wyoming Highway Patrol told the AP that six troopers are still deployed in North Dakota. They were sent on Oct. 22 and are scheduled to return next week.

The Lincoln Star Journal reported that 11 Nebraska State Patrol troopers also remained in North Dakota.

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