Ecuador’s Interior Ministry has granted Cuenca’s Citizen Guard permission to carry protective gear following an increasing number of physical assaults. Beginning October 22, the guard will be authorized to carry small billy clubs and tear gas and wear protective body gear when they are on duty.
The guard, which does not have arrest authority, will still be required to call national police reinforcement to deal with what the ministry calls “violent disruptive incidents.”
“We have sought these protections for our officers for several months and are pleased that we now have permission,” says Citizen Guard commander Paúl Delgado. “Since the guard was formed, we have faced many instances of violence when the officers were not properly equipped to deal with the situation and to protect themselves.”
Delgado says the majority of violent incidents involves drunks and informal vendors on city streets. In other cases, guards have come under attack when they went to the rescue of robbery victims, he said, adding that there were two more cases of assault on guards on Sunday and Monday. In one case, national police were called to make an arrest.
“With the new permission, guards will be able to wear anti-cut vests and helmets when they are called to deal with violent situations,” Delgado says. “This is important since several of our members have suffered knife wounds and other injuries in the past.”
In announcing the new protections, Delgado said the Citizen Guard is undergoing a reorganization that will redeploy officers to “high problem” areas in the city. “In the past, our assignments have focused on covering as many neighborhoods as possible. In the future, we will deploy to areas where there are the largest number of incidents requiring our attention. We must place our resources where they are needed most.”