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Saskatoon policing: They have not ever apologized to David Milgaard. More recently they have not apologized to Darrell Night, even though two of its members served jail time (see Hatchen and Munson) for taking him on a Starlight tour. Mayor Jim Maddin fired Chief Dave Scott who was very much involved in covering up for his errant officers. Now Maddin has been defeated and the new Mayor is pushing a hard, ugly line . . . Sheila Steele

Leanne Bellegarde Daniels

Leanne Bellegarde Daniels

Bellegarde Daniels resigns position with police board

Police commission chair Leanne Bellegarde Daniels backed up her opposition to Mayor Don Atchison's policing vision with her resignation, charging that his changes will alienate the aboriginal community.

Bellegarde Daniels, the only aboriginal chair in the police commission's history, aimed squarely at Don Atchison and his vision in unexpectedly announcing her departure late Thursday afternoon.

"I found the view that the mayor expressed of policing very disturbing," she said.

"In particular, my concern is the aboriginal people in this community. Saskatoon does not have a good track record with aboriginal-police relations."

Don Atchison

Atchison also "directly challenged" her role as chair during the campaign, she said, by promising to take over the position.

Bellegarde Daniels had planned to return as chair this month from her leave of absence, but said she reconsidered to spare the commission internal conflict.

She said in a phone conversation with Don Atchison (left), "he remained adamant about a focus on increased law enforcement, cracking down on the thugs, on increased dog patrols on 19th, 20th and 21st (streets)," she said. "He remained of the view that the more law enforcement there was the safer people would feel and (he) didn't recognize the need to attack the other contributors to crime."

Atchison promised to shut down the Little Chief Station (below)

Little Chief Community Station

Those factors include poverty and a poor impression of police, she said.

Atchison said he was "floored" to receive Bellegarde Daniels' resignation, although she was unlikely to remain on the commission next year.

He doesn't believe his policing vision will alienate aboriginal people.

"Their job is to provide law and order for all citizens of Saskatoon.

"I don't think any person, regardless of where they live, wants to have crime in their community. I don't understand this because it doesn't matter where you live, you want a home that's safe to live in. You want to be able to walk down the streets and be safe at night. I don't care what culture you're from."

Asked how she knows community policing is working, Bellegarde Daniels said there are better indicators than just crime statistics.

"It's the feeling of people on the street, I think it's their reassurance and contact with police officers not only in times of crisis."

She said in a phone conversation with Atchison, "he remained adamant about a focus on increased law enforcement, cracking down on the thugs, on increased dog patrols on 19th, 20th and 21st (streets)," she said. "He remained of the view that the more law enforcement there was the safer people would feel and (he) didn't recognize the need to attack the other contributors to crime."

Those factors include poverty and a poor impression of police, she said.

Atchison said he was "floored" to receive Bellegarde Daniels' resignation, although she was unlikely to remain on the commission next year.

He doesn't believe his policing vision will alienate aboriginal people.

"Their job is to provide law and order for all citizens of Saskatoon.

"I don't think any person, regardless of where they live, wants to have crime in their community. I don't understand this because it doesn't matter where you live, you want a home that's safe to live in. You want to be able to walk down the streets and be safe at night. I don't care what culture you're from."

Asked how she knows community policing is working, Bellegarde Daniels said there are better indicators than just crime statistics.

"It's the feeling of people on the street, I think it's their reassurance and contact with police officers not only in times of crisis."

Progress of the last three years includes the police service adopting employment equity and cultural awareness training, she said. The north Saskatoon neighbourhood of McNab Park also showed gains curbing crime through the community approach, she said.

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Glenn Johnstone said he's sorry Bellegarde Daniels is leaving the commission she had served for two years.

Recent community policing initiatives had given aboriginal people more confidence in dealing with officers, he said.

"I think nobody wants to go back to the way it was."

The move opens the door for Atchison to take over as commission chair and, ironically, may speed his agenda to redirect police strategy.

The commission meets Nov. 20 and will have to decide on a new chair before it does anything else. Considering that most of the remaining commissioners also support community policing, it's no sure thing that Atchison will take the helm.

Atchison also wants to reduce the number of civilian appointments to the commission from four to two, giving the three council members on the commission a majority.

Former mayor Jim Maddin, who dropped in at Bellegarde Daniels' announcement, would see many of his own reforms undone by Atchison's police agenda.

"I don't think this community wholeheartedly is going to embrace a return to high-handed, kick-ass policing," Maddin said. "I have a chill up and down my spine when I think how policing may be encouraged to go in this city.

"What I hear causes me a lot of concern because I think policing is going to backslide in this town and alienate people."

The mayor's ideas have a warmer reception from the city police association.

Vice-president Dave Haye said rank-and-file members like Atchison's promise to get more officers on the street, although they're waiting to hear details.

"We believe the police commission stepped too far in their vision of policing and operational needs suffered," he said.

Haye said he doesn't agree that changing course will damage relations with Natives.

"Safer communities are in everybody's benefit."