Pubdate: Thu, 15 Jun 2006
Source: Regina Leader-Post (CN SN)
Copyright: 2006 The Leader-Post Ltd.
Author: Pamela Cowan


Answering the calls of Reginans, a group of Guardian Angels could 
soon be watching over the Queen City.

"Average everyday people have contacted us," said Curtis Sliwa, 
founder and president of the New York-based organization. "In Regina 
I think a lot of the interest is due to the homicide rate and their 
perception of a growing gang problem."

In early August, two Canadian directors of the Guardian Angels who 
are former Toronto police officers will travel to Winnipeg, Regina 
and Saskatoon. Prior to coming to Regina, they will request a meeting 
with elected and public safety officials to "explain where we can be 
of service to the community," Sliwa said.

City officials will meet with the Guardian Angels, but that's the 
extent of their commitment.

"We'd welcome any conversation they'd like to have with us about what 
services they might offer and how they do their work, but I think 
beyond that we'd wait until we had some concrete information about 
what they were intending," said Regina Police Chief Cal Johnston.

Unlike the Saskatoon Police Service, which is short 28 front-line 
officers, Regina will have a full complement of officers, 347 sworn 
officers and four special constables, by September. However Johnston 
admits the workload is heavy.

"In Regina and in Saskatchewan generally, the workload of our 
officers is substantially higher than the work load in Calgary or 
Edmonton ... and even higher than eastern Canadian cities and that 
has a lot to do with our crime rate and our crime rate has a lot to 
do with some of the social issues and some of the historical issues 
we face in our city and province," he said.

Mayor Pat Fiacco said he's interested in talking to the group, but 
he'll rely on Johnston's opinion about whether the Guardian Angels 
should set up a chapter in the city.

"I think it's a bit premature right now until we have a good 
discussion with them," Fiacco said. "It depends on the kinds of 
crimes they think they can help us out with. There's a fine line in 
law and order ... There's guidelines and no one is above the law."

Coun. Bill Hutchinson, a member of the Regina Board of Police 
Commissioners, wonders if Regina needs a chapter when Neighbourhood 
Watch and the Citizens on Patrol Program -- 60 volunteers trained by 
police -- are "tremendously successful." But he added that he doesn't 
know much about the group.

"It sounds like what they want to do is reduce crime in our 
neighbourhoods and we're all for that, absolutely, and if they have 
something to offer that we're not doing, it would certainly be 
interesting to chat with them," Hutchinson said.

Garbed in red berets and jackets with the Guardian Angel logo, 
members are visual deterrents as they patrol on bicycle or foot, Sliwa said.

"No one in their right mind, as highly visible as we are, are going 
to be selling drugs, taking drugs, using drugs or smoking drugs in 
our presence," he said.

But the group aren't vigilantes, he said.

"A vigilante is judge, jury and executioner; a vigilante is taking 
the law into their own hands. We've never been accused of that," Sliwa said.

If applicants pass criminal checks, they receive three months of 
training that includes physical conditioning and self-defence.

"You've got to be able to defend yourself and defend others because 
it's an unarmed patrol, but a patrol that will do physical 
interventions," said Sliwa, adding that members don't "go into a park 
with a flame-thrower eradicating what you perceive to be the enemies 
of society."

All members are certified in CPR and First Aid, but most importantly 
they must understand what the law allows them to do, he said.

"That's intensive training and I think it can be showcased in that 
after 27 years of operating in 60 cities, after making hundreds of 
citizen's arrests, we've never been sued," Sliwa said.

Men and women, 16 years or older, can belong to the non-profit organization.

"What we're always seeking is diversity in the group," Sliwa said. 
"As we go through the western provinces, in addition to the whites 
who may join, we're definitely going to need First Nationers ... that 
will be very important for balance purposes."

FSIN Vice-Chief Lawrence Joseph told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix he 
would be thrilled to have Guardian Angels patrolling the streets of 
Saskatoon and Regina.

Let's flush out the pushers and criminals, he said, adding, "I don't 
give a damn if they (criminals) are First Nation or otherwise. If 
it's going to do the work we've been trying to do, let's go."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman