Policing the police: officer under investigation - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Policing the police: officer under investigation

by Mindy Aguon

Guam - As the first Pacific Regional Conference is held this week providing training on technology facilitated crimes, child sexual exploitation and sexting, among other topics, KUAM News has confirmed that an investigation is underway at the Guam Police Department to determine why one officer didn't believe the law had been broken when sexually explicit photos were sent to a female minor. 

A complaint was filed with the Internal Affairs division after the father of the minor wasn't satisfied with the officer's actions.  The incident has raised concerns about whether the men and women on the force are fully knowledgeable of the very laws they've sworn to enforce and uphold.

GPD's IA Division is tasked with finding out if a police officer acted inappropriately when responding to a criminal complaint. KUAM News has learned that back in December, a father reported to police that an active duty military man had sent photos of his genitals to his 13-year-old daughter. Sources tell the news team that when the officer arrived to his home to take the complaint, the officer reportedly told him that no crime had been committed since the military man was not aware that the girl was a minor.  Additionally, the officer said the case would not hold up in court.

GPD Spokesperson Officer A.J. Balajadia said, "That is currently under investigation; Internal Affairs is looking into that particular case." He also added, "Not speaking to the specifics of this particular case or this complaint, it's quite possible that the officer that arrives at your residence taking a complaint may believe that there is no complaint to be taken."

While the officer didn't believe a crime had been committed, he proceeded to contact the alleged suspect via e-mail, using his official GPD account. According to the e-mail that KUAM obtained anonymously, the officer informed the military man that the girl he'd been communicating with was a minor.  He further advised him to delete the evidence -photos and cease all communications with the minor.

The actions were questioned by the girl's father who pursued the case against the military man by filing a criminal complaint with another precinct and by filing a complaint with Internal Affairs.

Officer Balajadia says those residents who aren't satisfied with an officer's response can request to speak to their supervisor or call the Chief of Police's Office. "Our officers are trained to know what is a criminal act or a civil act, and like I said I can't speak to specifics of this particular case," said Officer Balajadia.

But Guam law is very clear when it comes to crimes involving minors. Attorney General Leonardo Rapadas explained, saying, "The fact that you have an adult doing that and sending it to anyone can be a problem. And it's especially a problem if you're sending it to a minor...it's unusual to have a police officer or some law enforcement agent say that certain cases aren't going to go anywhere. Everything needs to be fully investigated."

According to 9 GCA, Chapter 25.01: "Indecent electronic display to a child constitutes a 3rd-degree felony as any person who intentionally exposes the genitals of himself in a lewd or lascivious manner and has reason to believe that the transmission is viewed on a computer or other device capable of electronic data storage or transmission by a minor."

In this day and age, it's not unheard of that elementary or middle school kids have smart phones or make their own accounts on various social networks.  And for the protection of kids who are often victimized by predators online, the AG reminds parents to set ground rules and get passwords for all your kids' accounts.

"A predator can come into the house uninvited through the computer, through the smartphones or whatever the kids have," Rapadas noted. "So it's even more important that parents get involved...who are they chatting with the computer and do I know this person. Those are the things you need to be involved in. On top of that, parents need to get the computer out of the bedroom and put it in the living room for everyone to see. You have to do that at the very beginning so that kids know what the ground rules are."

The complaint was filed with police on December 14, which means management has a few more weeks under the 60-day rule to decide on what action, if any, will be taken against the officer.

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