Police morale at its lowest

The Bureau of Public Safety, the primary law enforcement body of this country, is spiraling downward, in danger of imploding from within, said veteran police officers who spoke on anonymity with Island Times, fearing retaliation if their identities are revealed.

“Honest, eng meral meral mekngit a renguk er tial blil a bulis! (I feel so bad for the Bureau of Public Safety, the police force).  I have been on the police force for little over 20 years, and I have never seen it this bad or the police morale this low,” said a demoralized and upset police officer during an interview yesterday.

Five officers who were interviewed separately in the past week all reiterated the same sentiments, expressing feelings of frustration, helplessness, and anger over what they perceive to be a lack of leadership, poor leadership, and lots of terrible decisions that have resulted in complete chaos in the entire Bureau of Public Safety.

One issue that has crystallized the problems of poor leadership, lack of leadership, and the terrible decisions made is that the police officers who tested positive for methamphetamine (ice) are still either working or on paid leave. No action is being taken by the Bureau of Public Safety leadership to address it.

Of the six people who tested positive, three resigned on their own, but three are undergoing “rehabilitation” while on administrative leave or continuing to work.

This situation has upset most police officers, especially veteran officers who have invested much of their lives in the police force.

“When a person is caught with methamphetamine or “ice,” that person gets a minimum of 10 years jail time.  If a law enforcement officer is caught, that’s plus 3 years or a minimum of 13 years of jail time.  But here, these officers tested positive for meth and are still wearing uniforms, walking around, and getting paid!  That is unfair and pisses the rest of us who have been at this job for a long time!” expressed a frustrated and angry veteran police officer.

Another said, “How can we go out to schools and public and conduct an awareness campaign, but the kids have heard that some of us use these drugs, especially high school kids who read or hear their parents talking. If they ask us what happened to those officers, I can’t answer.  I don’t even know!  Our leadership has not explained what policy they are following or what disciplinary actions are being taken.  Nothing!”

Officers who spoke to Island Times say that most of the police officers in the Bureau of Public Safety are upset about this lack of action from the Bureau of Public Safety leadership.  “If the law says they can’t be fired, don’t we have regulations in place that provide cause for termination or suspension?” questioned an officer, saying this is greatly affecting the morale of officers within the Bureau.

The problem also creates credibility issues for the police officers.  If a case is taken to court, explained an officer, the defense can easily tear down the case by tearing down the credibility of police officers.  

Vice President and Minister of Justice Uduch Sengebau-Senior reported at this week’s press conference that she had terminated one of the officers who tested positive for drugs. Still, that officer appealed, and the Grievance Panel re-instated the officer.  She said she believed she did the right thing, and it went through the process, and that was the final outcome.

But all of these problems stem from poor leadership, lack of decisive leadership, remote controlled and remote-operated BPS, said a veteran police officer.  

“Most divisions have acting chiefs, and one division has three chiefs.  Our Acting Director is a young guy who is also an acting chief of his division.  We are led by acting-acting chiefs and acting-acting director,” revealed an officer.  “Division of Transnational Crime and Narcotics Enforcement and the Division of Corrections all have acting chiefs.  The chiefs of these two divisions were “demoted” to the Division of Marine Law Enforcement and Fish & Wild Life, which already have a chief.  So we have three chiefs in one division, and two divisions are run by acting chiefs.

The officer also revealed that the chiefs of the two divisions were just given a memo that said they were “demoted” and were moved to another division without cause or evidence for their demotion.  BPS Director Cary Levitre just wrote them a memo saying they were ineffective and were being “demoted” and moved to another division.  “Their personnel actions still say they are chiefs and still getting paid their chief salaries, but they are all sitting in one division while two very important divisions are headed by acting chiefs.”

“Also, our Director is supposedly on leave but still manages the bureau remotely.   If this guy was Palauan, I am sure he has been fired, or they have sent him a memo saying he is on leave and should not be doing work. The acting director has to take his orders or decisions from him and decisions have to be delayed due to time difference.  It is just a mess!”  added the officer.

Regarding the drug problem, one of the officers interviewed shared that Director Levitre, before he left, told the officers that the biggest problem Palau faced was human trafficking and not drugs.  As such, he moved out three senior officers from the Narcotics Enforcement, leaving only three young officers still learning at the NEA. 

“The information he reported at the OEK budget hearing on the number of drug cases prosecuted in 2020, 2021, and 2022 are all lies.  You can check at the court how many cases were charged and prosecuted!” stated the officer, who also said to check how many human trafficking cases were filed during that period.

The same officer interviewed said that having officers in the force who have tested positive for methamphetamine certainly compromises ongoing investigations. 

Interviews of the different officers all share the same consensus.  The leadership at the BPS is a problem.  The morale of the police is at its lowest, and public perception is also at its lowest.  The officers continue to resign and leave the force.  But more concerning is the perception of the officers that should any danger or disaster occur, the Bureau of Public Safety is not in the position to handle the crisis.

“Right now, the only way this situation can be resolved is if someone from outside the BPS, from the national congress or the President, steps in to resolve these problems.  Otherwise, all I see is the Bureau of Public Safety continuing to spiral downward,” concluded the 20-year veteran police officer.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. When I was the senior felony prosecutor at the AG’s, we prosecuted numerous drug trafficking and possession cases in 2020, 2021, and 2022, including multiple trial wins and no losses.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *