DPS traffic citations under investigation

By Haidee V. Eugenio

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial said the Department of Public Safety's issuance and reporting of traffic citations is under investigation over allegations that some police officers do not report traffic citations issued to motorists.
In one particular week, for example, at least 20 traffic citations were issued but only six or seven were actually reported.

The investigation has been going on for weeks, but the administration has yet to report on the findings of the probe.

“I was made aware that there were some traffic citations like 15 one week, and then another 20 the following week, but when they checked, only six or seven were actually reported,” Fitial told Saipan Tribune in an interview.

Zero tolerance

The governor also said he instructed Public Safety Commissioner Santiago “Sandy” Tudela to not tolerate police mischief and abuses, referring to the July 25 arrest of a police officer allegedly involved in a burglary who used a police patrol car as a getaway vehicle.

“I was on Guam when that happened. When I came back, I told Sandy, the police commissioner, zero tolerance. Let's not even sit on it, let alone sleep on it,” Fitial said.

Days after the arrest of Police Officer Florencio Richards, the DPS commissioner said he feels bad that a police officer who should have been trusted by the public was the first to break the law. Richards is now suspended without pay and, if found guilty, would be immediately terminated from service.

Press secretary Charles Reyes said DPS has been cleaning its ranks, citing, for example, the arrest in 2008 of a police sergeant involved in an insurance scam.

“This is a successful example of DPS resolving issues like that, which has never happened before,” he said.

In 2008, Police Sgt. Hillary Tagabuel admitted forging a total of 41 traffic crash reports to collect from an insurance firm. He was charged in an insurance scam along with other individuals.

Under the scheme, the average payout by the insurance companies were anywhere between $8,000 and $25,000 per traffic crash report, and the police sergeant was allegedly being paid anywhere between $150 and $200 per forged report.

In March this year, Police Officer John K. Wabol was arrested for assault and battery, and disturbing the peace.

In November 2008, Police Officer Nick Leon Guerrero was arrested for allegedly firing his personal gun and assaulting his brother in Garapan. He was later released.

Police Sgt. Steve M. Mendiola was arrested in November 2007 for allegedly pointing a gun at his common-law wife and threatening to kill her outside a karaoke establishment in Rota.