To increase retention of law enforcement officers, a plan to standardize Guam officer ranks will be implemented with the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission.
Standardizing the rank structure is the first step toward solving the pay disparities that are causing officers to leave.
The POST Commission unveiled a proposed “Guam Law Enforcement Officer General Forces Structure Leadership Level” proposal on Friday and aims to deliver a final draft by the end of June, the president said. and Chief of Customs Vince Perez.
The plan is to offer standard grades, from one to 15, based on training and authority, into which the POST Commission will then embed officers from each agency.
“You have a multitude of different law enforcement agencies,” with their own reporting structure, Perez said.
“When you look at the duties and responsibilities, in addition to what they learned in their training centers, you can kind of come up with a general standard across the board and say that this (rank) should sort of match to that. But in many cases, the duties and responsibilities don’t really seem to match up when it comes to compensation.
For example, a lieutenant working for an agency might have the same level of responsibility as a Guam Police Department sergeant, he said, but still hold a higher rank.
The new structure is based on how ranks are handled in the military, where each branch has a different mission but standardized ranks.
But while a new, standardized force structure can be ironed out, the POST Commission doesn’t have the resources to finalize a new compensation structure on its own, Perez said.
A comparison last year found that the starting salary for a GPD officer was $11.87 an hour, while Guam Airport Authority and Customs and 40s started at $13.44. Guam Ports Authority agents, the island’s highest-paying entry-level agency, started at $18.19 an hour.
Law enforcement saw an 18% increase in base pay earlier this year, but the increase has been widespread.
Sorting out how to deal with this issue was a difficult task, Perez said. The POST Commission, which has three members, no full-time staff, and could not hire a full-time executive director, does not have the means.
The authority for them to create a new force structure and a standardized compensation structure was granted in the budget law for the financial year 2022, and gave them until October to complete the task.
“In order to develop a compensation structure, we really need to hire someone to do it,” he said, but there was no funding available for the commission to do so.
Cooperation, career development
There’s also a need for standardized filing in the post-9/11 world, where law enforcement is increasingly cooperating due to new federal mandates, Perez said.
“Many years ago it was compartmentalized, the police department doing their own, customs doing their own corrections, but if you look around you we have task forces that operate collectively,” Perez said.
Beyond that, the plan is also an opportunity for the POST Commission to standardize education and training requirements for junior officers to move up the entry ranks. Current law enforcement advancement requirements in Guam are often unclear and vary from agency to agency, according to Perez.
Making it clearer aims to inspire new officers to learn the basics of their job in more depth and set a clear path for career advancement.