Published March 17 2012
Forum editorial: Summit on Bakken great startThere has been a little grumbling out of western North Dakota because a law enforcement summit focusing on the oil boom convened in Denver, not in Bismarck, Williston, Minot or Fargo. The grumbling, including a curiously misinformed editorial in a western daily newspaper, is about as silly as it gets. Here’s why:
- The FBI Bakken Law Enforcement Summit last week was a national meeting, not a regional or state session. That it focused on law enforcement in the Bakken is a function of awareness by agencies at all levels of government that fallout from the oil boom is of national concern.
- Unlike the provincial whining from a few western voices, the value of the Denver summit was immediately recognized by North Dakota law enforcement, including sheriffs of McKenzie, Ward, Dunn, Montrail, Burleigh and Cass counties; chiefs of police from Minot, Dickinson, Mandan, Williston and Sidney, Mont. All attended and were joined by national experts from the FBI, Bakken and national oil industry leaders, professionals who focus on gang and drug operations; and officials from other oil states who have been through oil booms. Denver was the ideal site for all those interests. There were 120 attendees in all.
- North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem was there, along with officials from the the state Highway Patrol, Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Department of Corrections.
- Federal agencies, many of them with regional headquarters in Denver, included the FBI, U.S. Marshal Service, ATF, DEA, Border Patrol, Homeland Security, BIA and the U.S. attorneys from North Dakota and Montana. To a person, they recognized the potential for national implications of the Bakken boom and valued the opportunity to brainstorm at a convenient central location.
It’s small-minded to complain that the session was not in North Dakota. The meeting’s importance for developing strategies for law enforcement in the Bakken should not be sidetracked by provincial silliness. Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney, who wrote the book in North Dakota for cooperation and collaboration among law enforcement agencies (during recent floods), had high praise for the Denver meeting. He was complimentary of oil firm representatives – many with offices in Denver – who are eager to work with all law enforcement to stop a crime wave before it happens.
North Dakota crows that the Bakken play has put the state on the national energy stage. True enough. But it also has gotten the attention of criminals and assorted flim-flam artists. The potential for everything from increased drug trafficking to organized prostitution is quite real, and the assembled experts in Denver are first to say so.
The summit was an opportunity to bring together personnel who will be – and are – on the front lines in the Bakken. They have begun the process of assessing the extent of problems today and planning to prevent bigger problems in the future. That’s good news. Complaining about where they did their work was an unfortunate sideshow.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.