MINNEAPOLIS - "Our involvement in North Dakota was operational, not political."

That was the message from Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek during a news conference Tuesday as he, Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart and Washington County Sheriff William Hutton, addressed recent criticism for sending deputies and equipment to the site of the ongoing Dakota Access Pipeline protest.

"We were there to assist maintaining public safety, preserving the peace and protecting the constitutional rights of all parties involved,” Stanek said.

"We did the right thing here,” Hutton added. “When it comes to public safety, we received a call for help, and we responded to it."

Stanek said North Dakota made an "urgent" request for assistance on Oct. 18. On Oct. 20, the Office of Homeland Security Emergency Management and the Office of Governor Mark Dayton confirmed the request and began drafting an Emergency Management Assistance Compact, or EMAC, between Minnesota and North Dakota. HSEM signed off on the order and on Oct. 23, Stanek sent the resources to Standing Rock.

On Monday, the Morton County Sheriff's Office said Minnesota fulfilled the EMAC and all personnel and resources had been released from the area. North Dakota is reimbursing Minnesota for any costs involved in the effort.

“We all did the right things for all the right reasons,” Stanek said, “to ensure no sheriff, no deputy, and no state stands alone during a state of emergency.”

Last week, nearly 400 people gathered outside the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office to protest the agreement to send resources and personnel to the area. Some, including state lawmakers, contend that the DAPL protests are not an emergency and that EMACs should only be used in cases of natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

Stanek says the Morton County Sheriff's Office has a staff of about 20 deputies.