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Stripped of badges, cops seek reinstatement

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - Four police officers have been reduced to civilians. Late Friday their badges and guns were taken away without warning. The officers allege they are the victims of several of upper management's petty political games, but the Guam Police Department contends they're just following the letter of the law.

On Friday evening police Officer Tracey Volta was reduced to the rank of a civilian employee of the Guam Police Department.  The officer, who has spent more than 15 years of his life dedicated to the force, was forced to relinquish his gun, badge, police ID card and radios at a moment's notice. "I was just completely shocked," he told KUAM News. "I didn't know there was ever a problem."  

The same situation happened to Officers Jeff Santos, J.P. Duenas and Captain Mark Charfauros. "It's unfortunate that the department is not concentrating on the work of public safety as opposed to these types of petty antics," the latter said, adding, "We should be concentrating on police work, and here we are right now trying to defend ourselves and justify our legitimacy in this department."

Charfauros has been a police captain for the last two years and was never given any notice that he did not meet the requirements to be a police officer. In fact, he was the only one who received a copy of confidential attorney-client communication - an attorney general's review of Charfauros' qualifications.  Essentially the opinion states that because the department never had the captain submit to certain requirements outlined in Guam law, the department must have him submit to a psychological evaluation, submit to and pass a polygraph examination, a background investigation, and establish satisfactory evidence of qualifications by passing physical and written examinations.

His attorney, Curtis Van De Veld, however, contends these issues were never raised by then-police chief Paul Suba whose badge and gun were not taken away even though he never underwent a psychological evaluation and a polygraph examination when he was reinstated to his position as captain. "He has not applied it to Captain Paul Suba, who likewise has become reemployed," Van De Veld said. "He left the classified service and became an unclassified employee and returned to a classified position."

GPD spokesperson Officer A.J. Balajadia says Suba was never subjected to the mandates being imposed on the four officers because the department doesn't believe his time as chief of police constituted a break in service even though he went from an unclassified to a classified position.

Van De Veld added, "When these kinds of internal, petty personnel political issues remove very capable and qualified officers and both of these officers in their most performance evaluations, received glowing comments, certainly threatens the health and welfare of this community."

Volta and other officers believe they're just collateral damage as it appears there's a concerted effort to remove Charfauros from the Guam Police - by the very same people who fought to have him laterally transferred from the Airport Police. "We just happen to be in the line of fire, that's my take on it. There's no other reason why they would do it this way," Volta stated.

He added, "It's a shame at a time when we're short manpower, we're short equipment, our equipment is falling apart, they're taking more officers off the road, who's ultimately going to suffer here? It's the Guam public. I don't understand what's going on with our management, why this is being done.  They could have come to us and said hey there's a problem with your employment package, how about we arrange a time for you to take a polygraph and we'll set a psychological examination, if it were in fact a problem. That wasn't done. They stripped us from anything having to do with being a police officer, which makes no sense at all."

Officer Balajadia says the department is complying with the mandates required by law for uniformed officers. These requirements, he says apply to new hires, reemployment and lateral transfers prior to appointment as a police officer.

We should note, however, that the AG opinion did not mention stripping the officers' of their badges and guns, only that the department should require Charfauros to complete all the requirements and if he is unable to satisfy them, GPD should initiate an adverse action, but he is still protected by the Civil Service Commission.

The four officers intend to seek immediate reinstatement to their positions with the CSC.

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