A police major and several former law enforcement officials joined Yigo residents Monday night for the first in a series of town halls hosted by Sen. James Moylan discussing bills and issues related to public safety.
Enforcement of laws and retention of law enforcers were some of the topics covered during the meeting.
Police Maj. Manny Chong outlined some of the issues with complying with the municipal policing law. The law requires at least two officers on duty at all times per village, according to Chong.
It sounds good on paper but the problem is the Guam Police Department can't just hire the 150 or so officers needed to meet the law, he added.
Part of GPD's challenge is a lack of interest among recruits. The department is also competing for recruits with the Fire and Corrections Departments, according to Chong.
The Department of Administration doesn't have the adequate manpower to process the applications and the government of Guam as a whole is hurting for funding, he added.
"With this municipal policing division, like I said, on paper, it's a great idea. But realistically, it can't happen," Chong said. "There is also another statute. To me, this will be much more realistic. This is the statute that authorizes the Guam Police Department to hire 40 officers per year ... we are authorized but funding has not been appropriated."
Chong referred to Moylan as he spoke.
Moylan said everyone is concerned about safety at home and noted that Chong had a good point.
"It all involves money. And it involves manpower, too. Where are we going to focus our resources? And that's why it's important for the public's input to force the government officials to focus on where you think it's more important," Moylan added.
Sen. Therese Terlaje, who joined Moylan later in the meeting, said there is also an issue with enforcement.
"A lot of your ideas, and I share your frustration, they're good ideas. Some of them are already in law ... But they're not being enforced. For me, one of the priorities is we need to get to why are they not doing it?"
Army veteran and Yigo resident Frances Torres, said having each agency have its own cycle with its own standards doesn’t make sense to her. She noted that Guam Police Department's training cycle is about six to eight months, while Department of Corrections is six to eight weeks.
“Some agencies have longer training cycles than others,” she said. “If I wanted to get into public safety, I would start with DOC because that has the shortest training cycle … and then if I want to, later on, transfer to GPD or Customs and Quarantine … I would take the refresher in that specialty.”
She said creating a pool of recruits who go through basic training together and then separating them out into the specific training for various agencies will ensure all candidates get the same foundation in public safety.
She believes this will create a stronger pool of public safety candidates and help speed up the hiring process to fill badly needed positions.
"It works for the armed forces," she added. "I've gone through it myself."