Law and No Order in the CNMI Part II















Saipan Patrol officers from CNMI DPS website
July 18, 2010

It's scary that in the CNMI  so many law enforcement officers and public servants are arrested for criminal activity.  What's scarier is that too many of them are reinstated, only to commit crimes again.   It must be embarrassing and frustrating for the dedicated law enforcement officials.

The following is a list of some Department of Public Safety and Department of Corrections officials who have been arrested over the last 5 years:
Unfortunately, the Saipan newspapers and media sometimes do not followup on arrest stories to report the outcomes, including any sentences. They rarely report if a law enforcement official was reinstated so the only way to know is to read about the reinstated officer in another news story.  Case in point,  DOC officer Arnold Kaipat Seman was arrested for assaulting a detainee. Later we read that he was involved in massage gate and his title indicated he was not only reinstated, but promoted.

If you look in the papers' archives you will see hundreds of stories titled, "ex-convict arrested," which may indicate that the CNMI laws are very weak, that the judges give out lenient sentences, or both. Perhaps nepotism and political favors plays a role in the criminals being released early or officers with criminal records being reinstated.

Patrol Officer, Florencio Richards was arrested last week for possession and trafficking of ice. Richards reportedly drove ice dealer, Belinda Omenkar who was also arrested around in his unmarked patrol vehicle while she sold methamphetamine known as "ice" in the CNMI. The DPS-issued gun was found on the driver's side floor mat of the truck.

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Santiago F. Tudela stated that one or two more officers may be involved in dealing ice and vowed to go after them.

 In July 2009, Richards was arrested as an accomplice in a home burglary, using the police car as the getaway car. Vincent Daniel Q. Terlaje and two other suspects were involved in the robbery. Checks and credit cards were stolen. The Marianas Variety reported, "The burglary case was dismissed without prejudice in Dec. 2009 and he was reinstated to active duty on Feb. 19, 2010."

The Saipan Tribune reported that the case was dismissed because "the officer who handled the investigation was subsequently charged in federal court for extortion charges." That officer was Christopher Leon Guerrero. The Tribune reported:
When reinstated, Richards was assigned to handle administrative duty, but a month later, after completing a firearm recertification training, deputy commissioner Ambrosio Ogumoro assigned him back to patrol, Tudela said.
Ogumoro is the controversial officer who was reinstated by the governor months after the police commissioner dismissed him.

Why was Richards reinstated as an officer after previous criminal activity? How could someone think that this guy should have possession of a gun or be trusted to protect the public? Previously, this same officer was involved another suspicious event.  In December 2008 he reported that his car had been broken into and a firearm had been stolen. Later it was reported that the gun had been located in his house.

In the CNMI there has been a continual string of cop arrests with many who have been involved in violent crimes such as domestic violence, being reinstated. Judges have handed down sentences that are so insignificant that a slap on the hand would be more of a consequence.  Prisoners that have been convicted of violent crimes have routinely received weekend furloughs.  There is a pattern of reinstatement of rogue police officers with the governor taking part. Parole, probation or commutation of sentences for criminals who clearly should be behind bars is common place.  There is no publication of a sexual offender registry in the CNMI, but increasing sexual assaults and rapes by repeat offenders.  Then there was massage gate, gun gate and parole gate just this year.

If the CNMI thinks that it will continue to attract tourists, it should think again! People read and research before they plop down a chunk of money to take a vacation, and not many people will opt to vacation in a place that is growing more and more unsafe.

UPDATE: The Marianas Variety has picked up this story and brought it to the attention of DPS spokesman PO2 Jason Tarkong. I hope it will add incentive to the DPS and Legislature to finally take corrective steps.

One person commented on this post that one problem is a law that needs to be repealed (emphasis added):
Anonymous said...
The reason the cop was reinstated after dismissal of his criminal case is because he was required to do so by 1 CMC Section 2506 or 2503.

This is one obsolete law that needs to be repealed ASAP. Contact your legislature.

And why is the CNMI the only state or territory whose laws are not online so we can read it for ourselves? Because the Law Revision Commission refuses to do so, in order to sell more copies of the hardbound and digital copies of the code!

The five members of the Law Revision Commission are the Chief Justice, the Chairs of the Senate and House Judiciary & Gov't Ops Committees, the AG, and a Bar Association representative (Bruce Mailman).

Make our laws public now!

They belong to us, the people!

16 comments:

Isa said...

Thanks for making this list.

Wendy said...

Maybe the list will make people think about the importance of background checks, maintaining integrity in DPS by hiring only professional and non-criminal personnel, and putting public safety first.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they should pay these officers a decent salary and there will be less temptation to make money illegally.

Anonymous said...

I can't agrue with the money situation, but it is hardly a reason for these people to abuse their authority. If that were the case then anyone who feels they are not making the money they deserve would be innocent of stealing money from their employer or other actions.
Police officers are supposed to uphold the law. That's their job. There is no excuse.
Also, there is this unfortunate policy of doing background checks. I have fired several people because I caught them red handed stealing from our company. I then found out they were working for the Government. Nobody called me and I don't suspect anyone calls anyone. It's not really laziness, let's face it, they don't want to know.

Anonymous said...

The reason the cop was reinstated after dismissal of his criminal case is because he was required to do so by 1 CMC Section 2506 or 2503.

This is one obsolete law that needs to be repealed ASAP. Contact your legislature.

And why is the CNMI the only state or territory whose laws are not online so we can read it for ourselves? Because the Law Revision Commission refuses to do so, in order to sell more copies of the hardbound and digital copies of the code!

The five members of the Law Revision Commission are the Chief Justice, the Chairs of the Senate and House Judiciary & Gov't Ops Committees, the AG, and a Bar Association representative (Bruce Mailman).

Make our laws public now!

They belong to us, the people!

Anonymous said...

When politics started filtering into DPS withe favoritism, not limited to this administration but made worse with Ambrosio Ogumoro's dictatorship, that's when the problems started. Before then there was discipline and command control. Now Santiago Tudela has been co-opted by Ambrosio and he is toothless to do anything because Ambrosio believes (and he may be right) he is untouchable.

Saipan Writer said...

Anon 9:21 AM--you probably were not listed as a reference on the application. If you didn't report the theft to the police, there is no record likely to show up. Granted, the government (and any employer) should check with the last few employers before hiring someone...

Good work, Wendy. A rather disturbing list. But not 15 years worth- just a little more than 5.

On another topic--I stopped by to see if you had the CNMI's filing in the Arizona case...

Wendy said...

Hi Jane

Yes, it's about five years. I am sure I could have kept going , but this proves the point.

I am sorry -I have to go back over several posts and put the link the court cases. I have lazy summer syndrome. I'll post the link tonight.

Wendy said...

Jane

I posted the links to the US vs Arizona lawsuit on this post at the bottom.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 9:47 Thanks for the valuable information!

Anonymous said...

A suggestion for employers or anyone that wants to check up on an individual. go to the clerk of court and you can ask for a print out of any criminal record. You will pay a copy fee per page.
I used to do this on all of any prospective hires.
In this gives you the option to now what possibly you, as an employer are getting into, at the least you can refuse to hire them because they lied on the employment app.

Anonymous said...

It is 1 CMC § 2506. See N.M.I. Public Law 1-8, Chapter 10, Section 6, codified at 1 CMC § 2506, available at http://www.cnmilaw.org/pdf/public_laws/01/pl01-08.pdf#page=22 .

The codified version of these laws should be online! If the legislature or judiciary need to find $50K per year to get it done, make it so.

The online unavailability of the CNMI's Commonwealth Code -- unique among all other states and territories -- is one of the major institutional reasons for the shortcomings of the CNMI. Instead of being a government of laws, not men, we are becoming the opposite.

One shouldn't have to conduct legal research projects or cite to session laws to make the codified law readily available to the public.

Anonymous said...

Current CNMI law provides:

“Procedure When Employee Charged With a Crime. If criminal charges are filed against an employee of the Department of Public Safety, including one appointed by the Governor, the employee shall be suspended from the Department of Public Safety without pay, reassigned, or subject to such other action as the Director of Public Safety may deem necessary. If the charges are dismissed or the employee is found not guilty, the employee shall be reinstated with benefits and pay retroactive to the date of suspension.”

1 CMC § 2506(a). The current law protects DPS and DoC officers in their positions if they can manage to “beat the rap” criminally, which is typically done by stalling or delaying the case until witnesses become unavailable, evidence disappears, or OAG attorney turnover renders prosecution impractical.

The required suspension (as deemed necessary) and mandatory reinstatement does not auger well for the integrity of the criminal judicial process with respect to law enforcement corruption, and actually encourages corruption within the force.

Likewise, there is no reason to conflate acquittal for failure to meet the high “beyond a reasonable doubt” burden of proof in a criminal case with the much lower “preponderance of evidence” burden of proof in a civil employment case.

Our legislature needs to fix this problem ASAP.

Captain said...

Anon 7:29, this is what probably has happened in the case of Tinian Cop (now Municipal Counsel head, Tinian) Patrick Maglona in his up coming trial concerning his theft and selling of the DPS issued 9mm from the locker of another DPS cop (female) co worker and sold to his friend.
This happened maybe 5 years ago and has been pushed under the carpet for so many years.
The warrant was only served after he was elected to the Municipal Counsel.
Probably politically motivated as he switched sides in the past Mayoral election.

Anonymous said...

6:49 a.m.
The reason why the cnmi code are not online is because of the lawyers. They do not want the people to know their rights. They have to pay the lawyers to know their rights under the law. Where can you see a small island like saipan with a small population but plenty lawyers. Check the yellow pages of the telephone directory and you will be surprised how many pages for the attorneys.

Captain said...

6:49, Granted, years ago many of these lawyers that came here were either disbarred, had been reprimanded for ethics violation, or other problems in the US mainland.(not much unlike many of the US Mainland people that arrived here running away from something)
They (lawyers) basically presented a degree and was allowed to practiced law.
(Look at Seamers and Willens past)

Now,they have to take a bar exam, (don't know about background check) there are many good lawyers on island (besides some of the not so good ones)
I had to go through many to weed out the ones that I have ended up with and/or become personal friends with.
If you are having a problem with lawyer(s)take the time to go and check out others. as you stated, there are many to choose from, you will probably find the one for your needs and terms.