Public safety agencies ‘doing their best’ with limited personnel

Guam Police Chief Stephen Ignacio (PNC file photo)

The island’s public safety agencies have a shortage of personnel and they are doing the best that they can with the limited resources and personnel that they have.

The heads of the Guam Police Department, Department of Corrections, and Customs and Quarantine dropped in on the Patti Arroyo show at NewsTalk K57 Wednesday morning and talked about their respective agencies’ personnel shortages.

They also held a press conference a few hours later and basically said the same thing.

Guam Police Department Chief Stephen Ignacio said GPD currently has only 279 officers in uniform. He said GPD needs 100 more and ideally the police department should have 475 officers.

Department of Corrections Director Samantha Brennan said she currently has 172 corrections officers and six parole officers. Brennan said DOC needs to have 250 correction officers. Ideally, she would like to see 280 to 300 total based on the size of DOC facilities.

Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency Director Ike Peredo said his agency currently has 131 officers, including 27 attending the academy. He wants 167 because they are short of customs officers, especially in the port.

To augment their staffing, these three agencies are holding a job fair this Saturday at the Outrigger hotel’s mezzanine floor from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ignacio said they are looking for applicants preferably with a criminal justice background, but the minimum requirement is just a high school diploma, driver’s license, and firearm license.

“We’re getting the message to people especially new graduates that we have openings,” Ignacio said.

According to Brennan, one of DOC’s biggest obstacles is retention.

“We have people who have gone to other agencies because working in DOC is very unique and very different from working in GPD or Customs and Quarantine,” Brennan said.

She added that because DOC is short-staffed, the agency still incurs overtime but at a lower rate. “We are managing it the best way we can,” Brennan said.

In addition, instances of contraband still happen occasionally, but Brennan said DOC officers are doing a good job in monitoring the perimeter which is how many contraband items are confiscated.

For GPD, Ignacio said the shortage of officers is still the number one issue.

“We’re not as timely in our response as we would like to be because of the shortage. But when we see upticks in certain crimes in certain areas, we make do with what we have and we put people together and target these areas. We actively pursue these crimes,” Ignacio said.

The GPD chief also stressed that it’s important that the police and the public work together, adding that the videos, photos, and other tips submitted by the public have helped GPD a lot.