PUBLIC SAFETY SHOULD BE TOP PRIORITY ON GUAM

Editorial

Pacific Daily News

HAGATNA, Guam (Jan. 7) - On Monday, Gov. Felix Camacho announced that he was appointing Department of Corrections Director Frank Ishizaki as chief of the Guam Police Department.

Camacho said he has no doubt that Ishizaki "can rally our men and women in uniform to bring criminals to justice and to keep our streets safe." Ishizaki said he looks forward to handling the many challenges.

One of the new police chief's biggest challenges will be to get the governor and the Legislature to truly make public safety a top priority for this community. We need action, not words, from our elected officials that reflects their assurances that public safety is important.

The police department's fiscal 2004 budget was smaller that it was the year before. Police officers continue to leave the force, and it's difficult to replace them. Many officers are still owed overtime dating back four years. All of this translates into making it harder to keep and find police officers who can do their jobs effectively.

And last week, Attorney General Douglas Moylan made a clear case -- yet again -- that his office needs more support, personnel and resources to continue to prosecute corruption and other crimes. Allowing his office to hire lawyers who are bar certified elsewhere, without them having to pass the Guam bar, would give him experienced prosecutors who would be far less likely to move easily to local private practice.

The problems at the police department and attorney general's office, along with other public safety issues -- such as the need for a modern crime lab, the lack of a rescue boat at the Hagåtña marina, needed improvements at the departments of Corrections and Youth Affairs -- aren't getting the priority they merit. Public safety, together with education and public health, must be the top concerns of our government, because they are the top concerns for our community.

Our elected officials, both in the administration and the Legislature, must recognize this fact and act on it accordingly, particularly Sens. John Quinata and Randall Cunliffe, chairmen of the committees on public safety and judiciary, respectively. That means reducing or eliminating government services and positions of lesser importance so that necessary resources are made available for priority needs. And it means doing it now.

January 7, 2004

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

 

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