Babauta: CNMI has nearly same number of cops as Guam

Overwhelming support for Bermudes as DPS chief

Sen. Celina R. Babauta (D-Saipan) expressed concern yesterday that the CNMI has almost the same number of police officers as Guam, even though the latter is four times bigger in population.

Babauta said that Guam has a population of 170,534 and has 267 uniformed officers, while the CNMI population is roughly 43,400, yet has 194 uniformed officers.

Babauta raised the issue about the size of the Department of Public Safety’s police force during the Senate Committee on Executive Appointments and Government Investigations’ confirmation hearing on the appointment of Clement R. Bermudes for the position of DPS commissioner.

Babauta, who chairs the EAGI Committee, asked Bermudes to look at those numbers because she finds it “staggering” that, for a population of just 43,400, the CNMI has nearly 200 officers and the neighboring island of Guam, whose population is roughly four times more, is about equal in terms of ratio.

“And that’s very concerning to me,” she said.

The senator said that when a desk audit was conducted at DPS, many of the officers were still assigned to COVID-19 duties, so the audit could not get an accurate picture.

“What we tried to find out from that desk audit is, does DPS have enough officers in the right position and the right jobs? Or are there too many police officers?” Babauta said.

Celina R. Babauta and Clement R. Bermudes

In for Babauta’s questions about the probe into 28 officers who are being accused of incurring illegal overtime, Bermudes said that DPS Internal Affairs is conducting the investigation, in coordination with the Office of the Attorney General. Bermudes said majority of the allegations concerns overtime and potential fraud in relation to overtime. The 28 officers have been placed on administrative duty.

Bermudes said the public will be given an update once they complete the probe, whether it is exoneration or prosecution.

Citing the new transition report on DPS, Babauta said there have been allegations of corruption raised against police officers and a hostile working environment at DPS, but when Babauta asked Bermudes if he finds this to be true, Bermudes replied that he does not see it.

“Whether they are putting the show because I’m around, I don’t get that feeling,” he said.

But if there is a hostile working environment, Bermudes said it is his responsibility to resolve and to ensure that it does not exist. “Because that’s unnecessary energy we’re devoting for something when somebody is a culprit,” he said.

Bermudes also disclosed that his priority is the frontline—patrol and traffic. “Because if we can prevent crime, that would be lesser investigation,” he said.

At the confirmation hearing, several police and government officials and other members in the community came to support Bermudes’ nomination.

Bermudes said he is truly honored that the Palacios-Apatang administration believes he can help rebuild trust in the Commonwealth. “I am further honored to return to the department where I started my public service over 30 years ago,” he added.

The acting commissioner said he is encouraged by the younger generation of officers and civilians who are part the journey to rebuild the department.

“In closing let’s START. Start is the acronym for Service, Trust, Accountability, Respect and Transparency. Our people deserve better. And this what I commit to our people from this day forward,” Bermudes said.

Bermudes is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel. He used to be dean of the Northern Marianas College Academic Program and Services, and chair of NMC’s Criminal Justice Department.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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