The CNMI Department of Public Safety is hosting the two-day 5th Micronesia Police Executive Association conference that kicked off yesterday morning at Saipan Grand Hotel's Seaside Hall.
Acting governor Timothy P. Villagomez welcomed the off-island participants and guests during the conference kick-off.
Palau Bureau of Public Safety director and former MPEA chair Hazime T. Telei later handed over the official responsibilities of MPEA to the new chair, CNMI Department of Public Safety commissioner Rebecca M. Warfield.
The members discussed, among other things, progress on the crime laboratory project in Guam, and the association's newsletter and logo.
Warfield told Saipan Tribune that MPEA decided in the last meeting held in Guam that CNMI would host the next conference.
“We really want this meeting to be a working meeting. Really figure out how to get things done on our islands and how to get assistance from other agencies to address our needs,” Warfield said.
When she last attended the meeting in Guam, Warfield had a lot of questions because she was the newest member at the time. “When I came on board there were a lot of people around who knew the challenges of being a commissioner in the Pacific. And in going to that meeting I realized that the Commonwealth wasn't alone or unique in the challenges that it faced,” she said.
Warfield said that police commissioners and directors across Micronesia face similar challenges.
She said the previous host, Guam, gave an excellent presentation.
“They had all sorts of technology and things like that. But the only thing that I was missing was that how do I get that for my home island. What I've tried to do with this conference is address that issue for myself but also for my colleagues as well,” she said.
The commissioner said MPEA is important because, as individual island nations, the members often have a small voice.
“But if the police executives passed a resolution and present that to an international agency, it carries more weight, it makes them more responsive to our needs,” she said.
Warfield said they are also working on a Micronesian collaboration such that they can get training from one another as opposed to going to the U.S. mainland where it can be expensive.
“If we have certified trainers, say, here in the Commonwealth, it is much more cost-effective for them to come here or for them to even request one of our trainers to go to their islands to be able to train their entire police force,” she said.
Warfield said everyone needs training and the opportunity to evolve in their profession and there are limited opportunities for that in Micronesia.
As for a regional crime laboratory, Warfield said the project is being spearheaded by Guam because they have greater access to federal funding.
“ The proposal was that the Micronesian police executives association will be partners in that endeavor with Guam such that our officers will be able to attend that crime lab and get training if we have specialized evidence needs,” she said.
“Right now, the question before us is exactly how equal is our partnership. That's something that we'll have to work through subsequent to this meeting because we really don't have concrete ideas about that,” she added.
Aside from Warfield, the other MPEA member from the CNMI who attended the meeting was Ports Authority police chief Pius M. Helgen.
The other MPEA members who participated in the conference were Palau's Telei, Chuuk DPS acting director Jimmy Emilio, Republic of Marshall Islands DPS commissioner George Lanwi, Pohnpei DPS director Rullens Philip, Pohnpei police chief Joe Roby, and Pohnpei Division of Correction and Rehabilitation chief Lucas Carlos.
Yesterday's presenters were Federal Bureau of Investigation special agents Joseph Auther and Jim Barry, Naval Criminal Investigative Services supervisory special agent Joseph Dela Cruz, Australia Police's Pacific Transnational Crime Unit Network program manager Chris Barnes, and New Zealand Police's Pacific Islands Chiefs of police secretariat John van der Heyden.
Today's presenters will be Hawaii's Joint Interagency Task Force deputy program manager Lance McInnis and intelligence analyst Megan Stauder.
The CNMI will also hold presentation led by Fire chief Francis Taimanao, Crime Stoppers Program's Jim Arenovski and police officer Tony Diaz, Tactical Response Enforcement Team commander Capt. Pete Leon Guerrero, and police officer Vincent Babauta.
The topics in the two-day meeting include an overview of the Naval Criminal Investigative Services' mission, FBI assistance, Pacific transnational crime network, Pacific policing's future direction, specialized training, transnational crime and drug threats in Micronesia, federal grants and special programs, NMI Crime Stoppers, emergency response and explosive response teams, and police's professional standards unit.