Who is a peace officer on Guam?
by Nick Delgado
Guam - The Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission is tasked with deciding and recommending who is considered a peace officer. But the discussion is sparking disagreement from several government officials who say the law is clear that they should continue to uphold the authority and the title.
There are more than a dozen agencies who have personnel that fall under the category of being considered a peace officer, but that may soon change. "In order to be a peace officer. you need to meet certain criteria," explained lieutenant governor of Guam Ray Tenorio. In a recent POST Commission meeting, Tenorio worked with commission members to come up with a list of those who should continue to be recognized as a peace officer.
Tenorio says the definition of a peace officer is someone who has the ability to make an arrest. Some of those that remained include full-time Guam Police Department officers, Airport Police and Port Police and corrections officers as well as marshals. Others who may no longer be considered include the Attorney General's Office, firefighters, Park Patrol officers, parole officers, probation officers, conservation officers, GPD civilian police reservists and the village mayors.
"We are more an enforcer as a peace officer in our village than anyone else, and that's the way it works," said one such mayor, Piti's Ben Gumataotao. The concern is now growing from the public safety community, as officials do not want the recognition taken away. Mayor Gumataotao along with others expressed disappointment today, as he added, "I do have the arresting authority as far as being a peace officer - you do not have to carry a weapon, I know how to appease people that needs to be counseled with."
POST Commission executive director Dennis Santo Tomas wants to ensure peace officers the commission does not have the authority to change the law. "We are the ones who make sure the training standards are met for those people to be become peace officers, and that's our role in the commission," he stated.
But the commission is active in the discussion and will make the recommendation to the Legislature. Public safety oversight chair Senator Adolpho Palacios said, "I am glad they are really looking into this and we need to have more division and categorization. I have to wait for the study to come out but would like to see a change and a modification from the current definition that includes every positions and that's where the complication comes in."
The commission is expected to continue discussion at its next meeting at the end of this month. "This is not a done deal," Tenorio warned. "This is the POST Commission doing its due diligence to look at credentials, training and physical condition and then finally the certification process."