I would like to add clarity and explain the genesis and evolution of the law enforcement standards which were developed and approved by the Guam P.O.S.T. (Peace Officer Standards & Training) Commission.
Prior to the enactment of Public Law 32-232, no “across-the-board” standards existed for Guam peace officers in the areas of academics and physical fitness. Agency and department heads were often burdened with the responsibility of developing their own standards which did not necessarily mirror the standards of the other law enforcement agencies. Whenever leadership changed, agencies would sometimes have to adjust to the different standards that were preferred by the incoming leaders. This oftentimes led to frustration and confusion so the Commission felt it was very important to develop and adopt law enforcement standards and have them codified into law.
In 2012, Lt. Gov. Ray Tenorio challenged the Commission members to develop minimum standards in the areas of academics and physical fitness. These standards would apply to all peace officers inclusive of police officers, customs officers, firefighters, corrections officers, marshals, probationary officers, attorney general investigators, youth correctional officers, conservation officers and compliance officers. For two years, agency and department heads met monthly and deliberated over which standards would be uniformly applicable to all peace officers. Their hard work and collaboration resulted in the successful production of the first “Guam P.O.S.T. Commission Rules and Regulations” which was presented to former Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz with the 32nd Guam Legislature. These rules and regulations, which included the minimum standards in academics, training and physical fitness, was codified into law by Public Law 32-232 on Dec. 30, 2014.
PL 32-232 accomplished many “firsts” for Guam’s law enforcement community. First, it defines the three categories of peace officer from those who uphold the law & carry firearms (i.e. police officers) to those who have jobs of a specialized nature including specific administrative authority (i.e. firefighters) and those whose jobs are to enforce governmental regulations or laws (i.e. AG investigators & compliance officers). Additionally, this public law clearly defines the pre-employment requirements for peace officers, minimum standards for certification of basic training institutions and the minimum standards for employing agencies. One major addition to the law is the standards for certification for each category of peace officer. The law now clearly defines the academic and training requirements for category 1 peace officers which is greatly needed because agencies used to develop their own training requirements.
I will now focus on the Physical Fitness Qualification Test or PFQT, which is the new fitness standard for peace officers based on PL 32-232. Because of the nature of their jobs, peace officers must be free of any physical or mental condition which can adversely affect their ability to perform the essential functions of law enforcement officers with reasonable skill, safety and judgment. Furthermore, Medial Daily research has found that law enforcement personnel were 25 times more likely to die from weight-related disorders, like cardiovascular disease, than they were from actually fighting crime or getting into scuffles with criminals. These health concerns are the reasons why the Commission felt it needed to implement minimum fitness standards for Guam’s peace officers and it chose the U.S. Air Force Physical Fitness Standard because it is scientifically proven and is a comprehensive fitness program.
PL 32-232 established a three-year implementation plan for the PFQT which began in 2015. During the first year, agencies were to establish fitness training programs; identify their training cadre and coordinate all necessary cadre training; to create fitness information programs for the peace officers to educate officers of the importance of a fitness program and proper diet in order to achieve a healthier lifestyle. The second year (2016) was for agencies to schedule and begin the administration of diagnostic APFTs for their peace officers to familiarize them with the PFQT and identify their weaknesses so they can work to overcome them. Peace officers were also supposed to meet with their doctors to diagnose and document any physical limitations or medical disabilities they may have. In year three (2017), agencies were to initiate the administration of the actual PFQTs which would have been recorded into the peace officers’ official training records.
When I came on board with the P.O.S.T. Commission in September 2016, law enforcement agencies were fully engaged administering diagnostic PFQTs to their officers. During the Oct 18, 2016 P.O.S.T. PFQT working session, Chief Bob Camacho instructed all agencies to begin using the modified PFQT standard which agency training and development officers helped develop after a full assessment of the below average agency PFQT scores compiled from the previous fitness standard. Agency heads were also told to bring and report the modified PFQT testing results to the December P.O.S.T. meeting.
During the Dec. 15, 2016 meeting, agency heads reported improved peace officer PFQT scores after testing with the modified PFQT standard. Commission members then voted to unanimously approve and accept the modified PFQT as the new P.O.S.T. physical fitness standard. It is also important to note, that GDP Officer David Brantley, a certified fitness trainer with the Cooper Institute officially testified that these standards were in keeping with the job performance of any law enforcement officer. Chief Bob Camacho also submitted a formal request for a legal opinion, to the Office of the Attorney General, to confirm whether the P.O.S.T. Commission has the authority to make modifications to the PFQT standard as defined in PL 32-232. The AG opinion was subsequently received in April and it was determined the Commission will have to use the Administrative Adjudication Law (AAL) in order to make changes to the PFQT fitness standard.
Fast forward to today and the P.O.S.T. Commission continues to work closely with the Public Safety Committee Oversight Chair, Sen. Telena Nelson. Those changes being requested by the P.O.S.T. Commission include the following:
1) change current verbiage in the law to read “PFQT shall be modeled similarly to the U.S. Air Force fitness test” in lieu of “shall be equivalent to the U.S. Air Force fitness test”;
2) Give the P.O.S.T. Commission the authority to make changes to the PFQT standard, as deemed necessary and approved by the Commission, to better support the law enforcement missions;
3) P.O.S.T. Commission be given an additional year to work on making the necessary changes to the PL 32-232 so the new effective date for administering the PFQT for record would Jan. 1, 2018;
4) Exempt PFQT fitness standards from the AAL so that it does not have to go through the Legislature every time a change to the PFQT is needed. The Commission will also notify the Legislature’s Public Safety Committee whenever any change to the PFQT is made so the Committee will have record of all modifications on official record.
Dennis J. Santo Tomas is the executive director of P.O.S.T. Commission