FSM'S POHNPEI STATE POLICE IN TROUBLE

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By Janet David

KOLONIA, Pohnpei (November 12, 1998 - Saipan Tribune)---Confusion surrounds the suppression of a damning report from the Joint Executive-Legislative Commission, which was established to investigate the Division of Police and Security within the Department of Justice.

As this paper goes to press, the Acting Director of the Department of Justice has not seen the report, but a copy apparently has been provided to Rachel Hill, the Governor's public information officer, who published a summary of the conclusions of the report.

The report, which revealed major inadequacies in Pohnpei State's police department, has not been made available to the general public or the press.

According to Charles Hillyer, a member of the Commission, the Executive Order, which established the Commission, stated that the report is to be given out strictly at the discretion of the Governor of Pohnpei State and the Speaker of the State Legislature. Therefore, copies of the report were distributed only to Governor Del Pangelinan and Speaker Feliciano Perman.

The Executive Order, which was written by the Attorney General's Office, states that "the Commission shall report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Speaker of the Legislature within six (6) months of the date of this Executive Order," which was March 6, 1998. James Woodruff, Acting Attorney General for the Department of Justice, said the inclusion of this phrase, in the Executive Order, was intended to provide a specific time frame for the completion of the work of the Commission. "The intention (of this phrase) was so the Commission can do the work quickly, rather than having this investigation drag on for 10 years or so," said Woodruff.

Woodruff was initially appointed by the Governor to sit on the Commission. However, Woodruff felt that he would not be able to provide an objective perspective on investigations of specific cases within his own Department, and withdrew his name two months later. Woodruff is disappointed that the Commission has denied him a copy of the report. "What is the use of having this investigation, if we can't review these criticisms and recommendations?" asked Woodruff. "My understanding, in the beginning, was that the hearings would all be open to the public, so I thought the work of the Commission would be made available to the public." Woodruff believed the purpose of such undertakings was to enable the party involved to recognize its problems and then improve on them.

A letter from Commission Chairman Jack Jack, to Pohnpei State Chief of Police Francisco Joseph, dated September 25, 1998, stated the purpose of the Commission.

The purpose is "to assist the Governor and the Department of Justice in determining what actions, if any, may be needed to re-establish public and governmental confidence in the Division of Police and Security."

According to the Executive Weekly Digest, a press release from the Governor's Office, the Commission's report found that basic law enforcement needs were barely being met. The press release went on to say that the report has described a department where poor morale, nepotism and sex discrimination existed in an environment which lacked supervision. The Commission reported that although absenteeism and attitude problems were found to be widespread, it was noted that there was a "core of personnel that truly try to be good officers and public servants. However," it continued, "in order to obtain promotions and step increases, they have to fall under the control and influence of a select few that control the division from within."

According to the press release, the main findings of the Commission were that the division was under-funded, under-manned and under-equipped; inadequately trained for the task of law enforcement, not properly supervised and lacking in oversight controls; lacking in proper facilities to carry out tasks; and not maintaining proper records or files. Some of the Commission's recommendations, as stated in the press release, include "immediate implementation of rule, regulation and standard operating procedures" through the Division and the AG's Office; additional funding to complete assigned tasks; proper training to be instituted; establishment of a permanent police commissioner; a proper facility to house the Department; and serious discussions with the FSM National Government on the Joint Law Enforcement Agreement.

Following the press release on the report, Woodruff responded by saying that accusations of nepotism and discrimination were unfounded, as the Department of Treasury and Administration do promotions and hiring of employees. He said all vacancies are properly advertised, and the Department of Treasury and Administration does the initial selection of applicants. "I'm not saying that there are no problems within the Department of Justice," asserted Woodruff, adding that he agrees there is a need for training of officers. He said the Department is awaiting the arrival of overseas personnel to begin training. He said the Department has already recognized some of its problems and is working to correct them. Woodruff believed the Commission was established to assist in improving his department; however, he could not understand why the report had to be kept confidential.

According to the press release, Governor Pangelinan said the report should be viewed as a positive step forward, adding that it was now time to bring law enforcement in the State up to standards.

For additional reports from The Island Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Island Tribune or http://www.islandtribune.com

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