GPD needs budget support as they face an increasingly dangerous job

LAW AND ORDER: A police officer examines a gun and a backpack on Route 16 following a motorcycle crash on Saturday morning. Haruo Simion/The Guam Daily Post 

As of early Saturday afternoon, officials have shared little information regarding the motorcycle crash that sent one man to the hospital with serious injuries. The investigation is ongoing.

What we do know raises concerns - a man allegedly ignored a an order from a police officer and tried to escape the authorities apparently had a gun.

According to police, the man driving the motorcycle allegedly refused to pull over when police officers were trying to conduct a traffic stop. He eventually lost control of the motorcycle.

The result of the spill showed a bike that had been torn apart, pieces of it laid out along a short stretch of road along Route 16. That no one else was seriously hurt is a miracle. Among what remained, after medics transported the man to the hospital, was a backpack and what we could clearly see was a gun in the middle of the road.

While there are Guam laws regarding safety training and gun ownership that many people follow, it’s also clear that not everyone follows the law.

And yes, our first responders took an oath to protect and serve the community.

But we can see how much more dangerous the job has become over the years.

At least a couple times every week, we hear of police officers conducting routine traffic stops and finding drugs and guns in vehicles.

We also know that each year, the Guam Police Department doesn’t have the budget to hire the officers they need to patrol our village streets and respond immediately to calls from the community. Training is also something that hasn’t fully been addressed - typically it comes down to not having enough officers to cover the various units.

The government of Guam is now in the second quarter of the fiscal year, which started in October. But officials are already preparing for budget talks as they look ahead.

In just a few weeks, the governor’s office and the administration’s finance team, will submit to the Legislature their budget request for fiscal 2023. In it will be the budgets for agencies that provide public education, safety and health, and all the agencies and offices that support those services.

According to a recent consolidated revenue and expenditure report filed by the Bureau of Budget and Management Research, from Oct. 1, 2021 to Nov. 30, 2021 the local treasury collected $19,493,849 above the adopted budget. Officials, at least at the time of the report, said they anticipate the revenue surplus to remain at about $19.5 million through the rest of the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, 2022.

If the government is collecting more than anticipated, perhaps some of that surplus can help GPD hire more police officers, purchase safety equipment, ensure training, and provide other necessities.

We know that the pandemic has disrupted much of our economy but federal funds sent to the island so far has helped the government stay afloat, or even better if they’re looking at a $19 million surplus.

Saturday morning’s incident was a reminder that the dangers that existed before the COVID-19 pandemic still lurk in our community. And we need to support our first responders so they’re able to focus on their mission of protecting and serving.

There have been efforts, both from the Legislature and Adelup, to bolster the ranks of law enforcement, but follow through with sustainable funding sources - not one-time appropriations or pandemic bailouts from Congress - are needed to truly keep Guam safer year after year. 

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