Law Enforcement agencies adopt first-time uniform policy for independent investigation of use of deadly force by officers

November 12, 2021- Tamuning, Guam- Guam’s law enforcement entities joined together Wednesday morning to formally adopt policies and procedures for independent investigations of the use of deadly force by officers.
The recent occurrences of officer-involved shootings resulting in death or serious bodily injury led the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and the Guam Police Department (GPD) to revisit use of force policies and review procedures. Traditionally, law enforcement officers have been investigated by their own colleagues, in some cases with the assistance of GPD. The agencies discovered no comprehensive written guidance was in place.

The OAG and GPD worked together to draft the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that establishes an Independent Investigative Team (IIT) for instances when the use of force results in death or serious bodily injury or when an independent review would be in the public’s interest. Under the MOU, the procedures call for immediate notification of the OAG and GPD, securing of the scene and evidence, and support of the investigative process. A review of the IIT findings would determine if presentation to a grand jury is warranted.

On Wednesday, the OAG, GPD, and several local law enforcement agencies formally adopted the IIT MOU including the Department of Corrections, the Department of Youth Affairs, the Guam International Airport Authority, the Port of Authority of Guam, and the Department of Agriculture. This was the first time written procedures for handling officer-involved shootings were formally adopted across several local law enforcement agencies.

“We continue to deliver on our promise to strengthen public trust in law enforcement and the criminal justice process,” said AG Camacho. “We must be open to doing things differently. The widespread support we received from our local law enforcement partners of a process that is the first of its kind shows that increased transparency and an independent and uniform process is beneficial for the public and law enforcement.”

In June, an officer-involved shooting resulted in the death of a Tamuning resident. GPD immediately notified the OAG, which formed an IIT to lead the investigation. The IIT provided periodic updates to the public and, in a move unexpected in law enforcement investigations, released video evidence and a detailed report of the team’s findings. The investigation concluded in three months.

“That case showed us what worked well and what we have to iron out, but overall, the deployment of an IIT lent credence to the outcome and improved public confidence,” said Chief Ignacio. “We, too, have to hold ourselves accountable and this renewed collaboration demonstrates our commitment to doing just that.”