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The White Earth Police Department’s portable command post at WE Fest. BRIAN BASHAM/RECORD

Deputies are in command at WE Fest

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The law enforcement presence at WE Fest is receiving some extra support this summer.

For the first year, the White Earth Police Department is lending its “Portable Command Post” to the county deputies stationed at the popular music festival.

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“We have a very good working relationship with White Earth Police Department, and they wanted to offer any help they could,” said Becker County Sheriff Kelly Shannon.

The command post offers the use of electricity, computers, phone lines and radio systems. A camera extending from the top of the vehicle permits wide visibility of heavily trafficked areas. Updates and weather reports are posted on a television mounted on the outer side of the command post.

“It’s kind of the center of our whole operation here,” Shannon said, as it functions as both command and dispatching headquarters over the days of WE Fest.

Shannon said that the force devotes around 70 percent of its officers to WE Fest each year, and between five and 10 officers will be stationed full time. With the addition of part time deputies, the sheriff’s office provides a steady presence of 15 to 20 deputies.

“Everyone basically covers shifts,” Shannon said. “Nobody gets vacation approved during WE Fest.”

While the sheriff’s office will provide an officer presence overnight, Shannon said that officers are stationed for no more than 12 hours in a shift.

Deputies will be stationed in several key areas of the concert grounds and campgrounds, and mobile units can respond to calls as needed.

Communications Officer Tammy Kugler was behind the desk inside the modified vehicle.

“It’s really not much different than when we’re in the office,” she said as she received calls and directed officers through the WE Fest grounds.

“Our main goal is just safety for everybody,” Shannon said.

Of the primary issues that are dealt with by the department on the WE Fest grounds, Shannon said, “most everything is alcohol related.”

He added that officers address, “a lot of minor consumings,” as well as assault cases, or fights, in the campgrounds.

In spite of the issues that traditionally arise each year, Shannon said, “WE Fest management does a tremendous job of organizing this.

“They’re taking care of a lot of people,” Shannon said. Describing WE Fest as a “city over night,” with medical facilities, waste and food stations throughout the grounds, he expressed a favorable perception of the annual music festival.

In addition to the use of the Portable Command Post, White Earth Police Department has also provided the assistance of one of their lieutenants, who will be on hand to help in the evenings with operation of the systems.

“I would like to give White Earth a lot of credit,” Shannon said.

He described the use of the Command Post as “a huge asset to us,” and expressed hopes to purchase a similar unit for Becker County in the future.

With the support of WE Fest organizers and the White Earth Portable Command Post this year, the Becker County Sheriff’s Department will continue to ensure that this year’s music festival can be both fun and safe for everyone.

Libby Larson | DL-Online

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