Link: Pacific Islands Report
Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

CNMI Public Safety Department Forms ‘Cold Case’ Unit
Group will focus on unsolved murder, missing persons cases

By Ferdie de la Torre

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Jan. 29, 2013) –Newly nominated Department of Public Safety (DPS) commissioner Sgt. James C. Deleon Guerrero has created a special unit in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands that focuses on solving cold homicide cases as well as missing persons.

Deleon Guerrero, in an interview with Saipan Tribune last week, said that he formed the Special Homicide Activity Resolution Partnership, SHARP, in late December or early January 2013 as then commander of the Criminal Investigation Bureau. SHARP is composed of five detectives.

"That's all they do, just focus on all of these cold homicide cases and missing persons," said Deleon Guerrero.

Deleon Guerrero formed SHARP shortly after reactivating in November 2012 the Thief Apprehension Select Coalition, another special unit that he and police detective Jeffrey Olopai created in 2002 that focuses on burglary, robbery, and theft cases.

He disclosed that there are 41 or 42 pending homicide cases and missing person cases in the CNMI that date back to the '70s. One of his priorities now is the 2012 murder of bartender Emerita Romero and other pending homicides.

"But the thing that we must understand on how law enforcement normally approaches the investigation in these types of cases is that the focus will always be on cases with the highest potential solutions," he said.

He said it makes no sense to focus on cases that will lead them nowhere when they know for a fact that there may be cases that are very close to a solution.

"I think one of the cases that really has cost a lot of public dismay rest with the Romero case. We also have the Luhk sisters that have disappeared and that will also be a focus by this particular of homicide team," he said.

On his appointment as DPS commissioner, Deleon Guerrero said the appointment does not in any way change his personal or professional views about upholding the rules and regulations of the Civil Service Act with respect to hiring practices in the department. He said he fully intends to comply with the Superior Court's judgment that came as a result of his lawsuit against DPS.

"I guess this is more of an opportunity for me to make sure that institutional reforms are performed or made so we can make sure that DPS does not fall into a situation where it does not serve its purpose as an equal employment opportunity employer," he added.

Deleon Guerrero led 25 other police officers in filing a lawsuit to protest DPS' discriminatory practices in its promotion and hiring. The court issued last year a judgment favorable to the officers' lawsuit.

Gov. Benigno R. Fitial last Tuesday nominated the police sergeant to serve as DPS commissioner. The appointment requires the Senate's advice and consent.

Saipan Tribune
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