We hope senators think thoroughly on recently proposed legislation that would temporarily lift some of the pre-employment requirements for potential Department of Corrections officer candidates.
Bill 240-35, introduced by Vice Speaker Telena Nelson, states: “A temporary moratorium shall be placed upon the pre-employment requirement for Correctional Officers in reference to a psychological evaluation to determine absence of mental and emotional conditions … The temporary moratorium does not waive qualification to be certified as a Peace officer in the Territory of Guam, but defer the background investigation and psychological evaluation to be conducted during the recruit cycle training.”
The bill makes note of the need to fill vacancies at DOC to ensure the safety of officers, detainees, inmates and the community. The department currently employs approximately 160 correctional officers but DOC management has said it needs 320 officers to adequately run the facilities according to mandates.
However, removing the psychological evaluation is a dangerous proposition.
In audio recordings of a recent meeting between DOC officers and the governor, officers talk about the high-stress conditions they work under. Placing someone who may not have the mental and emotional strength to withstand that stress would only place them and those around them in danger.
There is nothing wrong with ensuring that those whom we trust to safeguard the community are held to high standards – those standards exist for a reason. In fact, filling vacancies with people who may be disqualified further down the line could cost the lives of DOC officers, inmates, or other people.
The mental, academic and physical capabilities the job requires shouldn’t be sacrificed for the sake of meeting numbers – or having 320 warm bodies at DOC posts.
The existing shortfall of manpower does have risks, but placing unqualified people whose mental and emotional conditions and background are unknown is irresponsible and forces DOC to compromise on its mission of public safety.
Temporarily lifting qualifications, and worse, calling them barriers to hiring DOC officers is not what the people elected senators to do.
They were elected to look at the issues the island faces and come up with reasonable solutions that ensure the safety, education and health of the community.
Bill 240 doesn’t tick any of those boxes.