The Department of Public Safety needs additional funding to mitigate the needs of the agency and at the same time increase the salaries of all law enforcement personnel.
This is what Rep. Edwin K. Propst (Ind-Saipan) wants to happen since the government had been investing heavily in education, the DPS also needed attention since this is the agency that protects the community.
Propst, in last Tuesday’s Rotary Club of Saipan meeting, said the DPS has around 40 to 50 police officers but only has three patrol cars that go around the island and is used in three shifts. “We should have more than that.”
“So what we’re hoping for is this new infusion of money that we can really start investing in law enforcement and have more police presence in our villages,” said Propst, who added that several houses in Dandan—which is under Saipan Election District 1—were hit by several robberies.
“We do need more police cars. Other things have been suggested like foot or bike patrol, that’s great but when you get into villages, especially in some areas, it’s not easy going to broken roads,” he added.
Propst said the DPS must be able to purchase things that it needs to better serve the public like upgrading their cars used for patrolling the streets and respond to various emergency calls.
The rookie lawmaker said the CNMI government must start thinking of other ways. “We’re going to need more of that [police cars]. If not [sports utility vehicles] then [all terrain vehicles], we got to start thinking outside the box.”
He said that they are now looking to start a neighborhood watch program. “Without increased police presence in our villages, I don’t know what we can do at this point. Our village is looking into a neighborhood watch program.”
Salary of police personnel is also an issue with CNMI officers only getting $16,000 annually compared to $49,000 received by their counterparts in the mainland. “I have lots of friends who are police officers. They work hard and try their best to do their jobs.”
“But look at the average salary, the median for police officers in the U.S. is $49,000 and our police officers are making a fraction of that, which is $16,000 a year. I have friends that started out making $8 an hour and almost 20 years later are still paid the same.”
Propst said this is wrong since police officers are putting their lives on the line a lot of times for the people. “What I’m hoping for, in terms of solution, is the ever increasing flow of money into our islands. We see a stronger economy, casinos taking off, and hotels are filled.”