by Randall Howell,
23 June 2010
RAPID CITY, S.D. –– No wannabe position this. It's street-level
reality. And it's coming to a neighborhood near you.
Working in conjunction with Rapid City's law enforcement officers –
police officers and sheriff's deputies – and the city's American
Indian residents, a Cheyenne River Sioux tribal member is developing
his long-held vision of street patrol squads.
The patrol squads are designed to de-escalate police-Indian conflicts
-- emotional, verbal and physical violence, including public and
private domestic violence, in Rapid City.
James Swan, a man who sees the Black Hills as his home, has plans to
field patrol squads – three to five-member teams – by autumn, if not sooner.
"This is not about me. This is about my people," Swan told Native Sun
News last week. "I envision five-member groups that are able to walk
through neighborhoods, such as Memorial Park, to help mediate
conflicts between the Indian community and police."
The patrol, now being created under the umbrellas organization –
United Urban Warrior Society/American Indian Movement of the Black
Hills, will involve "fully vetted" squads of American Indian
volunteers who will function as "first responders" to conflicts
between non-Indian law enforcement personnel and residents of the
Rapid City Indian community – both downtown and residential
incidents, according to Swan.
The chapter itself is designed to assist American Indians with racial
discrimination and injustice issues in South Dakota.
Swan, who graduated from an all-Indian high school in Rapid City
before joining the U.S. Navy in 1979, is the 49-year-old son of
Dorothy Steward, an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe,
Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation, and Orlando Swan, an enrolled
member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Indian
Reservation. He is a mechanical engineer with Montana Dakota Utilities.
"They have similar programs in other cities," said Swan, who has just
returned from Minneapolis where he gained information on creating the
urban patrols – patrols with members who are "clean and sober" and
meet strict requirements that soon will be posted on the United Urban
Warrior Society's website – a website that's under construction.
Created using "Guardian Angels" as a guideline, the UUWS patrols will
open membership to Native American men and women who are 18 years of
age or older, drug and alcohol free and have no criminal record,
according to Swan.
Swan, who lived in Rapid City through the sixth grade, spent 20 early
years of his young life in Seattle and returned to the Black Hills in
1992, also is seeking patrol candidates of "good character,"
something that means friendly, sociable and cuss-word free when it
comes to mediating what often become emotionally tense police-Indian conflicts.
And, Swan said, that he also is seeking patrol candidates who are
"culturally sensitive" in a sometimes emotionally and/or racially
charged Indian and non-Indian urban environment.
"We won't be sending guys out alone," said Swan, who spent 30 years
as a powwow competition fancy dancer and, at one time, exhibition
danced for the North American Dance Theatre at the 1990 Goodwill
Games in Seattle. "But they should have transportation and a cell
phone. That would be helpful."
A self-described activist, Swan most recently helped organize a
peaceful march and open forum for Indian community residents
protesting the May 2 shooting death – by Pennington County Sheriff's
Department deputy Dave Olson – of Christopher J. Capps, a
22-year-old, college-bound Oglala Lakota man in an open field off
Sturgis Road near Black Hawk.
"I'm recruiting for both warrior society chapter members and patrol
squad members right now," said Swan, who said he is "prepared today
to put a patrol on the street" in an emergency situation. He said his
goal is to have an emergency patrol at the ready, while carefully
organizing and structuring the personnel for a next-summer deployment
– something that involves training in such things as emergency
response, CPR, first aid and other rescue techniques.
One of the requirements of patrol volunteers, according to Swan, is
membership in the warrior society chapter that he's been developing
over several months.
"We will not have legal authority," said Swan. "We will have civil
authority to make citizen arrests, for instance. But we want Indians
to see us as someone on their side. Non-Indians don't think like we
do. We want Indians involved in conflict to see us as their friend."
Swan, president of the warrior society, said he's developing a
uniform for the patrol squad members. At this point, he said, it will
involve red berets, a cloth patrol badge, black pants and black
footwear and a warrior society shirt. The uniform also may end up
including an identifiable vest, he said.
"We need to turn it (the conflicts) away from an us-against-them
attitude," said Swan, who already is working with law enforcement at
the information level.
As Swan builds the warrior society chapter in Rapid City, he's also
recruiting for leaders to form chapters on South Dakota's nine Indian
"Rapid City will serve as a hub for the nine," said Swan, indicating
that those reservation warrior society officers would report to him
and his staff.
President Swan's Rapid City warrior society staff includes Larry Hand
Boy, Oglala Lakota, sergeant at arms, and DeAnna Swan, Crow Creek
Dakota, administrative assistant.
For more information, contact Swan at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (605) 791-0746.
Contact Randall Howell: email@example.com