By Troy Torres
CNMI Congressman Ed Propst is tired of what he sees as an increasing occurrence of police corruption in Saipan under the Torres regime, and is calling for the removal of Robert Guerrero as the police commissioner. In a series of open messages to Department of Public Safety police officers throughout July, Mr. Propst has sought to ease the burdened consciences of police officers, who tell him the corruption within DPS's upper echelons is getting worse. In an interview with Kandit today, Mr. Propst said the issue extends to the Department of Corrections, as well.
"There are several frontline police and corrections officers who are now taking a stance and who are fed up with everything going on. I encourage them to continue coming forward to speak up and come forward against cronyism, favortism, and corruption that has been going on for far too long. We're all well aware that there are officers, who are facing retaliation and attacks for allegedly speaking out and for which there has been no such confirmation they have spoken to anyone. They're basically doing witch hunts on officers. And if they feel they are leaking information, they suffer the consequences."
Mr. Propst said there is a climate of fear intentionally created by certain DPS managers to prevent officers from revealing criminal activity among the higher-ranking DPS officials and the Torres administration itself.
"That is what has been going on. It's obstruction. What has been committed is obstruction in which supervisors are interfering with an investigation or possible arrest. These supervisors tell their subordinates to stand down, or not to make an arrest, or to back down from something that they were trained to do, essentially. We have been told that they have actually been confused about why they're made to do this, and they realize it's about certain relationships with the higher ups. These coverups are obstruction and illegal."
The Saipan democrat has himself been the target of the Torres administration and police corruption. Prior to the 2020 election, Gov. Ralph Torres himself, according to his spokeswoman, had ordered the DPS to investigate Propst on trumped up charges. Propst has been one of the most outspoken critics of corruption and the Torres administration.
Asked whether he believes the Torres administration is using the power of the police to attempt to silence others, Mr. Propst simply replied, "I'm sure there are."
"Look at Rudolfo Hermosilla, the former police officer," Mr. Propst said. "He had to leave island! Hermosilla one day pulled over the Commissioner, and from there, his life was turned upside down. He's come out and spoken publicly about the corruption."
Mr. Hermosilla, in a public post July 23, said police officers are suffering under the corruption of Mr. Guerrero, and that he must be stopped.:
"Thirteen years as a police officer in Saipan and I have never seen anyone so corrupted than this current Commissioner. We can not do our jobs without getting hammered for doing the right thing we are working for the Community to protect and serve and here he comes punishing US for doing our job.
"Some EXAMPLES and not all: I ticket his circles OF FRIENDS and HE placed me on admin duty for 1 week unable to patrol and was restricted to drive a police vehicle FOR DOING MY JOB!
"The Last time I drove a police vehicle or any government vehicle is year 2020 of January when i pulled the commissioner over for failure to yield on a merging lane, speeding and near collision with another vehicle a civilian vehicle. He the commissioner was driving his unmarked GOVERNMENT VEHICLE. And I GET PUNISHED FOR DOING MY JOB!!" - Rudolfo Hermosilla, Jr.
Propst said one of the biggest reasons for the problem of police corruption is the commissioner "is a puppet of the governor, who serves at the will of the governor." He noted Mr. Guerrero has been seen carrying Mr. Torres's bags, as though he were his bellboy, the increase in personal security detail that has expanded to the governor's entire family, and the escorts police officers provide on illegal excursions.
"The solution first and foremost, it is more than evident based on all the complaints that the commissioner needs to be removed. I do know there's a petition being created to ask for his removal. There is a climate of fear of signing it, of course, because of retaliation. Look no further than that bogus non disclosure agreement that was created. If you look at that, we are being told now there is a commander or higher up who is going to fall on his sword and take the blame for it. And of course he'll be protected, when clearly that NDA was clearly an obstruction into the investigation into the governor. It is this kind of lying that is creating this cesspool of corruption at DPS among the higher ups.
"I am asking the chair of JGO - and she obviously has her hands full right now - once this investigation of the governor is completed, I'm asking for a complete investigation and oversight into DPS and possibly into DOC for various reasons. These are frontline officers - a lot of them have been there for so many years - and they're so fed up. All of their complaints have fallen on deaf ears, when it's come to this governor."
The open letters to the police officers of DPS began July 7, when Mr. Propst wrote this:
Dear DPS Officers,
I have heard about retaliation against some police officers suspected of leaking the NDA (non-disclosure agreement) and for refusing to sign it. Please know this kind of retaliation is deplorable, but sadly, so typical. The inner circle continues to defend the indefensible from nepotism and cronyism within the department, even trying to find a fall guy for the NDA willing to fall on his sword. How sad. Are we to believe that a sergeant came up with the NDA all on his own and decided to force it upon his subordinate officers? For what purpose? What would he stand to gain? What would anyone at DPS stand to gain by such a horrible one-sided NDA that attempted to rob every officer who would sign it their personal freedom to speak out against corruption?
To the brave officers who reached out to me, your identity is protected and kept confidential. No one, not even in the leadership, knows your identity, and DPS certainly does not know who met with or spoke with me, and they are only making assumptions. Continue to do good and serve with great honor. One day your department will be cleansed from the nepotism and corruption we have all become so accustomed to. More to come.
On July 16, 2021, Mr. Propst wrote, in an open letter to police officers:
Dear DPS Police Officers,
The retaliation against you or your colleagues for speaking out against corruption at DPS is illegal. The cover ups at DPS are illegal. Know your rights. Know that things cannot change at DPS until you are willing to take a stand. And you can take a stand together. Together you are stronger.
It is time to end the nepotism and cronyism that exists at DPS. There are way more good officers than a few bad ones. Don't let the rotten apples spoil and tarnish your character and integrity.
To all of you who have reached out to me, I have never once revealed your identity to anyone. Only the information you have given me has gone to OPA and the OAG. Your supervisors are paranoid, resorting to illegal non-disclosure agreements to silence you, checking your government-issued phones, using reverse psychology in attempts to get you or your colleagues to turn on each other.
Continue to honor the oath you took. Karma will come to the corrupted in due time. God is not sleeping. Thank you for your service and I am so sorry you have to deal with corrupt practices, as your job is already so stressful. May God bless you and protect you and all the good peace officers at DPS.
And, finally, on July 21, 2021, Mr. Propst wrote:
To the good men and women at DPS,
Continue to document the corruption and cover ups at DPS and continue to report it. The sacred inner circle may not like you and may punish you, but know that is only temporary. Despite the fact I have never violated your anonymity in our meetings and discussions, the sacred circle resorts to reverse psychology and lies to try to get you to admit to speaking about the bad things happening there and instead of rewarding you, they punish you. Know that this is temporary. God is not sleeping. The corruption, cronyism, and nepotism at DPS must end.
You know what also must end? Crappy "Made in China" police equipment that is not built to last. If the DPS Commissioner can drive a taxpayer-funded Nissan Armada and Pathfinder and other luxury vehicles and be chauffeured as well, then DPS should be able to afford to buy better personnel equipment and uniforms for all front line officers.
May God bless the honest, good men and women at DPS who refuse to compromise their integrity. You are the true heroes.