Tale of CNMI Police Brutality

March 15, 2010

A letter from a foreign national, Li Gui Xiang, screams out for federal law enforcement officials to investigate cases of unjust treatment of citizens and prisoners by CNMI detention facility and CNMI Department of Public Safety personnel. It is obvious that civil rights of citizens and prisoners are being violated by law enforcement officials in the CNMI. The treatment of the masseuse in the massage-gate incident was questionable. Other prisoners were allegedly beaten in the facility and their accused assailants were promoted, not punished. Now we learn of another horrendous incident as described in this extremely disturbing letter to the editor from the Saipan Tribune:

A 24-hour nightmare with DPS

My name is Li Gui Xiang. I was born on March 15, 1982. I am from Jilin Province in China. I came to Saipan in November 2006 for work.

On Feb. 5, 2010, at 10:30am, I drove a car on my way to Garapan with my friends, Hong Mie, Xiao Zen, Dajie, Tian Ye. When we drove by Sunny Restaurant, I heard the police siren behind me. Immediately I pulled over the roadside. A policewoman walked to me; she seemed upset and said something very quickly. Although I did not understand what she said, I handed her my driver's license and car registration documents. She took the papers and walked back to her car. I saw her leaning on her car and write something, so I stepped out of my car to find out what was happening. She gestured that I stay in the car. So I did. After a few minutes of waiting, Dajie said she was in a hurry. I then walked out of the car again and tried to explain to the policewoman. She looked angry when she saw me walk to her. I realized I should back off but it was too late. She grabbed my left arm against her car and handcuffed me. I was scared so I started to yell why she handcuffed me. But the shouting made her angrier. She then put me on the ground with her knee against my back, she sprayed pepper spray at my eyes. I was terrified. I couldn't open my eyes and I was lying on the ground and crying. Then the policewoman dragged me into her car. I heard the policewoman close the car door and turn the siren on and drove me to the jail.

The police car drove through an iron door. I squat at the corner and cried for my boss. I saw that policewoman was there with other policewomen. Then I was given a piece of paper to sign. I did not understand what it wrote and asked for my boss or at least a translator. I also asked them to allow me to wash my eye since they are so painful. A policeman took me to the restroom and took the handcuffs off. But he also locked me inside the toilet. I banged on the door and shout for help. No one came. I stayed inside the toilet for about half and hour.

Then two policewomen came and gave me the inmate shirt. I stayed at the corner and refused to put it on. I cried, “I don't put that on. I did not make mistake, why you keep me here?” One policewoman said to me, “Don't waste our time.” Then both of them grabbed my arms and took off my shirt. I screamed and shouted, they did not care and took off my shoes and socks then my pants. Then they stared at my bra and asked me if I hide anything inside my bra. I cried and told them there was nothing inside. After I flashed to prove there was really nothing, they were finally satisfied. One of the policewoman said I was like a baby. She put the inmate shirt on me and brought me to the cell (holding). I realized there were no help. I lay on the concrete bed and cried and cried till the second meal came. I was not hungry but only shivering and cold. I felt totally humiliated. Later it was about end of the day, the only policewoman left there asked me was I ready to sign the paper. So I signed the paper but I have no idea what it says on it. I was so shaky that she had to hold my hands for fingerprints. Finally she transferred me to the normal cell, away from that chilly room. By that time I have no idea what time that was. The next morning, on Feb. 6, around 9am, a policewoman released me after few procedures. It was my nightmare 24 hours.

Li Gui Xiang
San Jose, Saipan
I certainly hope that this individual has an attorney. The names of the police officers involved should be released to the public and if these accusations are true then immediate action should be taken.

Isn't this a violation of civil rights, a case of police brutality and/or a case of false imprisonment? Aren't there translators at the jail? Was this woman informed of her rights? Shouldn't the U.S. Office of the Attorney General investigate and take action against the police officers involved in this incident?

Please read Zaldy Dandan's excellent editorial, Cops Gone Wild.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps federal authority has left locals looking for ways to control the alien population.

Anonymous said...

What was she arrested for? There is no story in the papers that cover every arrest on Saipan from Guerrero DUI to a brawl in a bar. Or did they let her go after pepper spraying her and scaring the sh*t out of her? Let's hear about this DPS!

Wendy said...

Anonymous 8:05

What does that mean? That the federal government encourages the DPS to abuse citizens and prisoners? Why would you make such a statement?

Anonymous said...

Who trains these people? Or are they even trained at all!?

high chair lawyer said...

Why no news on this arrest? Because they covered it up. Ask the Marianas Variety to check this out. What were the charges and who made the arrest?

Jane said...

Actually, the police work in the filed does not seen worng to me; it's the failure to provide a translator or letting her make a phone call at the DPS station where things go awry.

I am, of course, reading between the lines. When the police tell you to stay in the car and you get out and approach them, they could reasonably take that as a threatening action. We have no idea why the police pulled over this car. There could be much more to the story.

There are many reported incidents in the states of traffic cops getting assaulted and even killed by people they stop for routine traffic matters. And we don't even know if this was a routine matter. Imagine if the police had a report of a car of that descriptiong leaving the scene of some worse crime. We just don't have enough facts.

I find it off that the driver is going to go and try to hurry up the police because one of his passengers is in a hurry. There's something else going on there.

The letter writer also says s/he was yelling and shouting in response to the police putting on handcuffs. I would guess, s/he was also physically moving about, in resistance. Whether the arrest was warranted, this response isn't permissible.

At the jail is where the protocol seems to have fallen apart. There should have been translation. There should have been permission to make a phone call.

But requiring a person to put on the prison garb and checking for hidden items is standard, and necessary, if they are going to detain the person. This letter-writer seems to have been resistant and difficult and refused to cooperate. I don't think the police enjoy forcing someone to change clothes.

This isn't good, but the letter writer compounded the problems.

Another real problem occurs long before any of this incident happened. There should be mandatory training of drivers (especially those from a foreign country with language difficulties) before they get licensed so they know what are their rights, but also what are the police's rights; what are the driver's responsibilities and how to respond to police commands.


Anonymous said...

If this was a legitimate arrest then why wasn't the arrest publicized or in the paper? Every other arrest is? Something is wrong here.

Anonymous said...

How do people who can't speak english respond to a policeman command?

Jane said...

Every arrest is not publicized.

In February, we were consumed with massage-gate.

Just because there was no publicity does not mean there was a cover-up.

But I do agree, investigate. We do not have all of the facts and need them. There is certainly enough here to warrant looking into the situation.

But as responsible citizens, we need to remain cool and rationale while we get the facts, and not jump to conclusions.

Anonymous said...

If this were any place in the US she would have been tasered for getting out of the car AGAIN after being told to stay put. She could be armed and dangerous, a drug dealer or triad gang member. She can't speak English? How did she get a drivers license? Can she read signs in English? How about the story she wrote? That's in English. No, something is wrong with her story. She was pulled over by the police, told to stay in the car and didn't. So what if her friend was in a hurry?

Anonymous said...

Saipan DPS control by Local and been cheated many years for foreigners who cannot perfectly communicate in English. Check it out and needs investigating for this…
This is a violation of civil rights and crime for discriminating by police officer who is not qualified police person of Local.

Captain said...

First off, how does anybody get a drivers license that cannot speak English.
The last I knew the DMV does not provide translators for the license exam. (many years ago they used to)There also has been many instances that the license was sold to an alien.

The going rate in the past was $350, (plus or minus)
I had bought in the past for some of my drivers as they were not allowed to use the Phil ones to drive the equipment on the site. (later went through the tests and got the commercial ones)

This is a perfect example of why English is required, to understand the direction of the Cops.

Every so often Saipan Cops are sent to Tinian to "Terrorize" that island. (They do not allow the Tinian cops to go to Saipan to work)
I have worked with many cops in Saipan. Most are arrogant and "boisterous" and never show up on time (if at all) to start work or to relieve their fellow cops.
Tinian cops are not much better but most now are young and I and others have known them as kids in school along with their parents.

I have called on occasion the Tinian Cops' Supervisor to come to the scene so I could file a complaint against the Saipan cops for similar instances stated, either on attempts on me or for one or more of my people that were not warranted in an attempt to "show" their "power" and "control" over the outer islanders.
This statement from this lady does not surprise me.
I have heard from some of my people in the past on similar instances when they have been stopped while in Saipan.
I have had to fly to Saipan to get them and ran up against the same lack of answers and prosecution.

When I have tried to prosecute these complaints from me, even to flying to Saipan. There is so many excuses of why they have not finished the report or it got lost.
Nothing is ever done and same things keep going on.

Another problem is the high sound of many female voices (and males.
If you ever noticed many of the Asians can be sitting next to each other talking and they are yelling at each other. you can hear them a block away. Listen to them in the stores, in restaurant etc.
These cops might have thought that this femal was yelling at her in the beginning and also could not understand the accent.
These cops, especially the females need training.
They are only in the force because of the family name, most cannot pass the physical (men also) and reading and writing skills are non existent.
They think because they have a badge and a gun they are "God"

Wendy said...

There definitely are missing pieces, and that's why there needs to be an investigation.

Islander said...

DPS made the right decision to restrain her when she walk back towards the officer who earlier told her to wait in the car, but thats totally out of procedure in DOC, especially not giving her the chance to speak to a translator. im just wondering if the writer here is been translated, as it seems that she can really write in english.

Anonymous said...

wendy- regarding comment 8:05, I didn't mean feds were involved, I meant that under our new control, locals may be searching for ways to control the alien population, as the whole case has been about control.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 7:40 Thanks -I get it.

the teacher said...

When a Saipan police officer tells you to stay in the car, you should stay in the car. She got out because she was in a hurry, completely irrelevant unless you are rushing to the emergency room. At the point she started screaming and yelling at a CNMI police officer, she needed to be cuffed and locked up, as our police officers don't disserve that, and the translation issue was not their fault either. The Saipan police may not all be perfect, but my 15 years of experience here says they are courteous unless someone is disrespectful and always helpful.

SCREAMING at a police officer is uncalled for, and the officer should have told her "Lady, if your selling crazy, we are all stocked up here" as she hauled her away to cool off.

Wendy said...

Hi Teacher:

I agree that people who are told to stay in a car by a police officer absolutely should. However, the incident should be investigated to determine what really happened at the detention center. Why wasn't a translator provided? No one should be forced to sign papers that they do not understand.

What were the charges? Why was this person pulled over?

Anonymous said...

It is not the right of a non English speaker to be provided a translator Wendy. That would cost A LOT OF MONEY. English is the spoken language in the CNMI not Mandarin.

Wendy said...

I believe all prisoners being held on U.S. soil should have the right to know why they are being held or arrested and the right to make a phone call or contact someone regardless of what their English proficiency is. Should a person be made to sign a paper that he/she cannot read? Maybe it is legal, but is it just?

I wonder what you would feel if you were arrested in China or a country where you are not proficient in the native language. Maybe you would have no objection since translators cost so much...

broken chair lawyer said...

Why pepper spray a handcuffed prisoner in the eyes? How huge was this lady?

The Saipan Blogger said...

The commenter above is right: had this happened in Florida, she would have been tazed on the side of the road. They taze children here in Orlando!

Anonymous said...

they tazed black kids here in the south too. one kid died! what happened to discretion? blacks, aliens are still human.

Anonymous said...

Many people have died from tasers and from police brutality. There is a trend in the U.S. to overreact, to use brute force when it is not needed and to treat people with disrespect. What happened to the idea that law enforcement officials are employed to keep people safe and protect the public? I want to know what she was charged for too. I agree that language barriers should not be a cause of brutality and that this needs to be investigated.

Anonymous said...

CNMI is not Florida, Saipan Blogger. If this letter was published in a US newspaper there would have been a statement from the police chief and an internal investigation would have been demanded.