Officers of the Guam Police Department are having to do more with less after the force's fiscal year 2021 budget was cut by $1.4 million.
“As we went through the budget hearing process, we understood and knew we would come out with a shortfall from what we initially requested, understanding the times we are in,” said GPD Chief Stephen Ignacio. ”We are holding up. I am glad to know that all of my officers are staying safe. Those that were infected with coronavirus have tested negative and most of them are back to work. So we continue to look out for them and look out for each other, and make sure we take the necessary precautions so that there is no harm to our officers.”
At least a dozen GPD officers contracted COVID-19, he said.
Ignacio said the austerity measures they implemented at the beginning of the month to save on spending include turning off lights, computers and other appliances in offices when not in use. Officers also have to return all government vehicles at the end of their shift, as opposed to taking them home.
“Having the vehicle to take home makes it more efficient, but in this time and day where we are facing a shortfall, our response is not going to be as quick," he said. "But, when a call comes for a detective or the special operations division, they are going to have to drive to the shop to pick up the vehicle and drive to the scene. I know it’s a little inconvenient, but there is a need to control cost."
Additionally, GPD has been forced to cut back on its spending for fuel and overtime.
“We are looking at ways to cut without sacrificing service,” he said.
However, one concern that officers have spoken to The Guam Daily Post about is the decrease in manpower at each precinct.
GPD was forced to lower the workforce to one patrol supervisor, one desk watch officer and four beat officers per shift.
“That is nothing new to the Guam Police Department. That measure has been put in place for many years and was implemented again to make sure the department makes it to the end of the fiscal year,” Ignacio said, as efforts are underway to add a fifth beat officer. “It’s just a matter of moving bits and pieces around in the budget.”
He said they are also using Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds to cover the overtime that they cannot afford.
“Even though we don’t have an overtime budget, we understand that overtime is inevitable in this line of work and there are things we can’t control, like a late arrest or report, a homicide, traffic fatalities," he said. "We look around in our budget to look for the money to redirect to cover the overtime costs. There is nobody to blame. The Legislature is not to blame, the governor’s office is not to blame, I am not to blame. At the end of the day, we are faced with a pandemic and no matter who you are everybody has been affected. We just have to make the tough and hard choices but without sacrifice to the community.”
The chief also wants the community to know that “(the budget) may affect the overall operations, but it does not affect our service to the community.”