Cops have insufficient protective gear


The Department of Public Safety has insufficient amount of protective gear for police officers, who also need more training, and that their overtime is justified in playing a vital role in the CNMI’s operation against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those were among the findings of a desk audit conducted by the Office of Personnel Management, which also didn’t find DPS management engaging in retaliatory transfers of staff.

OPM concluded that in general, DPS personnel perform their duties and responsibilities according to their class specification.

However, OPM underscored the need to work with the department to develop position descriptions more specific to the work they perform in their assigned unit, section, or division.

OPM concluded that DPS appears to be adequately staffed, but the pandemic disrupted personnel’s normally assigned duties and stations by COVID-19 assignments, while they were still required to continue the necessary operations in all areas of the department.

OPM determined that DPS personnel transfers to another unit, section, or division are documented in their file with the department and personnel are provided 3-4 days advance notice prior to a new schedule being issued.

OPM said although the DPS commissioner is the final decision authority, Internal Affairs personnel work collaboratively and in accordance with the policy and procedure manual to conduct investigations and make recommendations to the commissioner.

OPM completed their desk audit report based on their review of the DPS on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota for the period November 2021 to July 2022.

OPM conducted interviews with 118 out of 249 DPS personnel on Saipan, 26 out of 29 DPS personnel on Tinian, and 45 out of 46 DPS personnel on Rota, which includes both law enforcement officers and non-law enforcement personnel.

OPM director Frances Torres-Salas submitted the desk audit report last Aug. 2 to House of Representatives Speaker Edmund S. Villagomez (Ind-Saipan).

Torres-Salas said OPM’s review was conducted for the purpose of determining whether DPS was providing services in an economical, efficient, and effective manner; whether its goals and objects were being achieved, and whether it was complying with applicable governmental and departmental policies and procedures related to employee and employer relations.

The director said OPM’s core focuses were to analyze the scope of training resources and identifying reasons for high turnover of staff.

OPM acknowledged DPS’ vital role it has been playing in the operation of the COVID-19 Task Force and noted that in the initial stages of this desk audit report, DPS personnel were assigned to various areas of Saipan to cover quarantine sites and COVID-19 testing sites.

These assignments included areas such as Kanoa Resort, the former Mariana Resort & Spa, Pacific Islands Club Saipan, Koblerville Youth Center, and the Medical Care and Treatment Site (MCATS) located at the Commonwealth Healthcare Center.

Currently, DPS personnel are assigned at the designated quarantine site at Kanoa Resort and two vaccination sites—one at the Koblerville Youth Center and one at the MCATS.

OPM said each designated site is staffed by two DPS officers per shift at 12 hours per shift.

OPM said while they interviewed DPS personnel and the commissioner, there were mixed views as to whether the department was adequately staffed or not.

The DPS commissioner stated that, currently, officers work on the average around 30-40 hours of overtime per employee per pay period.

OPM said the commissioner disclosed that overtime requests for non-law enforcement personnel are kept to a minimum, limited to on as as-needed basis.

OPM said the requests for overtime will continue due to the pandemic and that all COVID-19 related overtime requests are funded through the COVID-19 account.

OPM said the DPS commissioner stated that without COVID-19 related overtime requests, the overtime hours would be significantly reduced to 10-20 hours per personnel per pay period.

OPM said the discussion of transfers and protection for retaliatory transfers were raised during a handful of interviews.

However, OPM noted that there was no mention of retaliation.

OPM said the concerns were of undocumented transfers, lack of training in the area to which they were being transferred and mentions of unjustifiable reasons for the transfer.

OPM said the commissioner stated that if the personnel is under investigation, whether criminal or investigative in nature, the personnel will be temporarily assigned to a different area until the investigation is resolved.

OPM found that there is a need for training to ensure all officers are well-qualified.

OPM said the trainings will significantly increase levels of productivity and competence.

OPM said given the unique circumstances where Saipan’s crime rate is low, it is still necessary to ensure the officers feel confident and competent when responding to the public’s call and properly transcribing the incident through a well-articulated detailed report.

OPM said interviews indicated the need for training in the areas of hands-on training in field experiences such as armed robbery, dealing with an active shooter, and building entry; in-depth report writing; effectively responding to 911 calls; and proper training for police dispatchers.

OPM said there is a need to develop high-quality capabilities investigators; hold updated training for criminal investigations; have unfair selection of officers to attend training; and conduct stress management and other mental health type training through the use of DPS counselor.

OPM said underutilized senior staff should conduct trainings on a regular basis.

OPM found that personnel are frequently rotated between different sections without time to learn the duties.

The desk audit also uncovered that insufficient fuel budget is allocated to Tinian, preventing adequate use of their vehicles.

The audit noted a need for adequate resources for the Criminal Investigation Division.

Among OPM’s desk audit report’s recommendations is to provide body armor and protective gear to officers that respond to a public call, and provide continued training on investigation techniques, money laundering, etc.

OPM recommended to provide continued training on report writing and extensive tactical and rapid response.

OPM recommended that individual should pass a medical clearance prior to the police’s academy and that cadets should take and pass a psychological examination prior to graduation from the academy.

The desk audit proposed for an increase the pay level at the police cadet level to at a minimum, and consider changing the minimum requirement for the Police Academy training which would require all new police officers to complete the academy.

OPM said this recommendation would omit waiving the academy for an applicant obtaining a degree in Criminal Justice.

OPM said DPS should come up with programs for seasoned officers to share the knowledge they have gained throughout their career with junior staff.

OPM said DPS should institute a “buddy system” where a higher-ranking officer pairs with a rookie police officer.

OPM said the government should look into bringing back or allowing premium pay for the law-enforcement employees, mostly especially hazardous pay.

OPM said the government should provide budget assistance to hire more personnel (cadets) to lessen the need for overtime and shorten the hours required for the current officers.

OPM recommended that DPS should consider and look into a possible auxiliary officer/part-time unit that can be activated during shortages or during big events.

OPM suggested that the patrol section have a mandated buddy-system for its newly graduated staff to assure safety and efficiency, especially for this busy unit.

OPM said there should be more Workforce Investment Agency trainees to help with entry level non-law enforcement positions.

OPM recommended DPS to properly utilize the counseling program under the department and that there should be a schedule of required time and visits to the counselors.

OPM proposed to conduct formal desk audit to consider an increased in pay level for police officers.

On Sept. 30, 2021, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signed into law the Budget Act for Fiscal Year 2022 (CNMI Public Law 22-08). A provision of this law mandates OPM to conduct desk audits of DPS and the Department of Corrections.

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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