Department of Public Safety Commissioner James C. Deleon Guerrero warned all law enforcers in the CNMI yesterday to prepare for a “long, expensive, and dangerous war” against traffickers of crystal meth or “ice.”
“Today, I have a message to all law enforcement officers across the Commonwealth. Get ready and get ready to fight. We are going to rid this Commonwealth of crystal methamphetamine,” said Deleon Guerrero in his first ever “Commissioner’s Address to the General Assembly” held at the Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe. DPS officials and personnel as well as some lawmakers attended the event.
Deleon Guerrero also discussed the many problems at DPS that he inherited from his predecessors as well as the accomplishments and programs the department initiated in 2013.
Deleon Guerrero said he decided to come up with the unprecedented Commissioner’s Address because he believes that, as the leader of DPS, he is duty-bound to report to his personnel about the things that have been happening in the department as well as his plans.
He described crystal methamphetamine as an “evil substance” that contributes to the evolution of many forms and types of crimes against the community.
“It has made this once peaceful and free from property and violent crimes Commonwealth a dangerous place to live,” he said.
Deleon Guerrero said their plan to wage war against this drug are now being finalized and that when the time comes, “there is no turning back.”
He likewise called on lawmakers to stop bickering about the lack of funds and to pass critical legislation making drug testing mandatory for law enforcement officers.
“This is not a sideshow, and unlike politicians, there is no rhetoric in our remarks,” the commissioner said.
In an interview with reporters after his address, Deleon Guerrero said his message to drug traffickers “will be coming out soon.”
Deleon Guerrero said he has been communicating with the Drug Enforcement Administration in devising a plan.
He hopes the CNMI Judiciary will come on board by establishing a drug court.
As for DPS’ plans for 2014, Deleon Guerrero said they must allow the tourism protection program to remain vibrant and strong, and to develop and bring to operation acquired properties as part of the DPS impound and Susupe Community Oriented Policing Services projects.
To improve the quality of the workforce, Deleon Guerrero said they would recruit more women, minorities and individuals with higher learning credentials into the organization.
“Our department will be open and transparent so that we may inspire good quality and educated individuals to enter our changing workforce,” he said.
He said continued investments in technology-based expansion projects, including human resource assets, will also occur.
DPS has new employees, but Deleon Guerrero will add more to help the department improve its capacities.
He said DPS has a new legal counsel, who is motivated to get started with policy revision projects.
Deleon Guerrero also wants to see the establishment of a community policing program for Kagman. “The people of Kagman deserve better and it is incumbent upon all of us to accommodate the need to afford adequate protection of Kagman residents,” he said.
Deleon Guerrero recalled that the past 12 months had been particularly challenging for DPS.
“At the onset, crime was out of control, harassment and intimidation of public safety employees was widespread, and morale amongst employees was at an all-time low,” he said.
Deleon Guerrero said many of the things that were once created to set the department on a path to success were destroyed and the rule of law was often ignored.
“The culture of our organization was heading in the wrong direction. Clearly, something had to be done and that’s exactly what most of us collectively did,” he said.
The restoration of public trust and confidence was a top priority in 2013, he said. “Our relationship with the common public was almost non-existent and in many respects embroiled with tensions,” he said.
The department, Deleon Guerrero said, began repairing the damage by cleaning up the personnel’s acts. “In the process, painful decisions had to be made but, however difficult it was, order had to be restored,” he added.
He pointed out that many of police officers, firefighters and civilian support service personnel made serious sacrifices by working extra hard.
“While we were doing housecleaning of our own, so did the efforts to reduce crime as aggressive pursuit of criminals intensified,” he said.
While many of DPS personnel were working to regain the confidence of the community, the management was also working toward rebuilding its relationship with its state and federal law enforcement and direct service partners.
“Today, we enjoy harmonious friendships with many of our state and federal law enforcement agency partners,” he said.
With respect to patrol operations, Deleon Guerrero recalled that exactly a year ago yesterday, the department was faced with the problem of having only two functional patrol vehicles.
He said DPS fuel debt was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, while the landline phone bills totaled over a hundred thousands dollars.
Many of these debts, he said, were attributed to nearly a year of neglect in making timely payments.
To make matters worse, he said, crimes committed against tourists and citizens alike were at an all-time high and more than 80 percent of the department’s police emergency response vehicles were sitting idle in repair shops, many for as long as three years back.
“This was happening in spite of the fact that our average monthly vehicle repair bills was at around $35,000,” he said.
Last year, he said, DPS established the Vehicle Issuance Management Program and only three vehicles were identified as part of the program’s initial implementation.
With an initial fuel debt of over $300,000 that was attributed to over 10 months of non-payment by his predecessor, many predicted the idea would result in failure, Deleon Guerrero said.
He said the administrative and general support staff from the Office of Fiscal Affairs, the Office of Highway Safety, and the Logistical Assets and Support Section all worked very hard to get this program on its feet.
“Today, I am pleased to announce that the Vehicle Issuance Management Program is alive and well,” Deleon Guerrero said, adding that there are now 20 serviceable emergency response vehicles.
The doors for integration with the department opened for the first time last year for entry level positions with the police force and general support service positions, Deleon Guerrero said.
As a result, he said, more than 70 percent of the most recent recruits were individuals with college degrees.
“By the end of this year, the same will happen with positions at the Fire Services Division and with higher ranking titles in this department,” he said.
With the little funds they were able to save, Deleon Guerrero said they have slowly begun renovation work on the DPS central office in Susupe and that all improvements will hopefully be accomplished this year.
Deleon Guerrero said with assistance from the Department of Public Works Energy Division, all of the facility’s air-conditioning systems have been replaced.
He disclosed that federal sub-grant assistance totaling over $50,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice and through the Criminal Justice Planning Agency to improve the facility’s security system will soon arrive.
“A policy revision is underway and soon we will have a solid and accountable system in place,” he said.
On the establishment of the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation, Deleon Guerrero said he removed the Criminal Investigation Bureau from the Commonwealth State Police to allow it to operate as an independent division equal to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and the Commonwealth State Fire Services Division. He said a successful DPS centers around a strong and vibrant criminal investigative program.
Since they began this process, he said, the Emerita Romero murder was solved and many burglars and thieves have been arrested.
Deleon Guerrero noted that no lawsuit was filed against DPS in 2013 and not a single person was murdered.
On public-private partnership, Deleon Guerrero mentioned private companies that donated cash, vehicle, computers, bicycles, cameras, and other tools.
He said they are in the process of chartering a Public Safety Foundation and these funds will soon be deposited into the foundation’s account.
On DPS engagement with the Legislature, Deleon Guerrero said the criminal and traffic laws are simply outdated.
He said DPS has worked well with the Legislature, particularly the House of Representatives this past year on proposed measures.
Deleon Guerrero likewise noted that with the help of the administration, the rationing of fuel ended, renovation of facilities has begun, and vehicles are being brought back to serviceable order.
“To the people of the Commonwealth, I ask for your continued prayers for our success. I ask that you thank your police officers and firefighters for the work we all do,” he said.