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By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Aug. 23) - For the first time in Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands history, a woman will head the Department of Public Safety.

Rebecca Miller Warfield, a criminal litigation prosecutor and assistant attorney general, is Governor Benigno R. Fitial’s third appointee as DPS commissioner.

Fitial’s first choice was John Wabol who is now the deputy commissioner while the second appointee was retired Army Captain Ernest Mark Williams who served for less than two months. He was terminated on April 28 after the governor sided with Wabol and other senior DPS officials who did not get along well with Williams.

Warfield, 35, held a press conference yesterday afternoon, her first day of work.

She said DPS personnel are among her top priorities.

"There are a lot of issues in the department -- I think the department is about people. (We need to) invest in the men and women (of DPS). The fire division, the boating and safety division, the criminal investigation division and the other divisions and all those personnel -- if you invest in them they will (provide the) best services."

She added, "It’s about people -- it doesn’t matter whether or not they have the equipment they need. The first priority are the men and women in uniform and getting them the infrastructure that they need and the tools that they need to better serve the community -- so people’s needs first."

Warfield said she wants the department to provide "stronger services" by giving DPS personnel the opportunity to better serve the community.

She said the department has a lot of officers and commanders with special skills.

"I think everyone can benefit if they have training in different areas," Warfield said.

Ray Mafnas, who was appointed acting DPS chief after the firing of Williams, has been re-appointed as secretary of the Department of Corrections.

"(Mafnas) and the governor somehow became aware of me and they expressed interest in having me in the department," Warfield said.

She said she hesitated at first in accepting the job, but after a few meetings with the governor and some personnel of the department she decided to give it a try.

"I will try to see what DPS needs. I need to have an understanding of what they expect from me," she said.

"DPS is a paramilitary organization. You have to motivate the people here and to motivate the people you have to make them know that what they think and what they do matters to you. I believe in DPS -- I believe in the men and women of DPS and that’s why I took this job. I didn’t accept it simply because the administration offered me the appointment. I took it because I have met the men and women of DPS and they seem to have confidence in me and I know I have confidence in them and we can work together. I think that’s the most important thing that everyone understands. You don’t build an organization from the top to the bottom -- if you build a building, you don’t start with the steeple on top and work your way to the ground. You have to start from the bottom and work your way up and that’s the thing we need to keep in mind," Warfield said.

Warfield is a 1998 graduate of Tulane Law School in New Orleans, Louisiana.

She also studied at Amherst College in Massachusetts and at the University of Lancaster, England.

Her husband is Chief Prosecutor Jeffery Warfield.

August 24, 2006

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