Out of 877 residents surveyed, some had a good experience with the Guam Police Department, while others were not so good, leaving GPD acknowledging that residents’ attitudes towards police are mixed.
The pool consisted of an equal number of men and women across Guam’s ethnic demographics.
This accounts for only a fraction of the island’s population, but the GPD Performance Survey has put a spotlight on what some in the community think about the police department.
A first impression is a lasting impression and word of mouth has never traveled through the grapevine like it does now in the digital age where sharing experiences or incidents is as easy as pressing a button.
Taking into account that there are many factors contributing to the community’s perception of GPD, PNC sat down with Chief of Police Stephen Ignacio who shares his reaction to the survey’s findings showing that the majority of those surveyed believe GPD officers are biased.
“I don’t believe those police officers are biased. The police officers and the community need to work together to address this perception of the bias of the police department. We need to take a look at really how social media influences how we think and act,” Ignacio said.
The survey revealed that 53.7 percent believed a person’s ethnicity affects how GPD treats an individual. Across the country, negative interactions between police and community members are highlighted through social media such as the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Hands Up, Don’t Shoot movement in the U.S.
Here on Guam, instances of questionable conduct by officers are likewise shared through social media. But according to Ignacio, what the community is seeing is the darker side of what is perceived as regular police conduct.
“There are thousands if not tens of thousands of interactions daily between the police and the community and so what you get is probably a very small snippet when some are put out on social media compared to the actual day to day activities. There are probably 90 to 95 percent, if not more, interactions of police in the community that’s positive but the negative is influenced by what we read and ingest,” Ignacio said.
GPD says no incidents of officers being biased have been reported in the last year. However, social media posts have resulted in two investigations being launched recently.
The first involves an officer who was caught on camera applying an open palm strike on a cuffed individual. The second involves graphic pictures taken at and shared on social media of a motorcycle fatality in Tiyan.
Ignacio says that when it comes to officers’ questionable conduct or misconduct, GPD will investigate and a physical report doesn’t need to be made.
“If we see things on social media that weren’t reported, we will investigate it because that’s a form of reporting in and of itself,” Ignacio said.