Senate approves bill to arm drug-court officers

DURING a session last week, the Senate passed a measure that would allow Community Supervision Officers to carry firearms and make arrests while carrying out duties for drug courts.

Senate Bill 20-83 entitled to “Empower and define the authority of Community Supervision Officers and Compliance Officers in treatment courts” introduced by Senate President Arnold Palacios goes now to the House for action after all eight members present voted to pass the bill.

The bill states that Community Supervision Officers are tasked to monitor a participant’s behavior and program compliance outside the courtroom.

It added that community supervision plays a critical role by protecting public safety, deterring non-compliant behavior, providing accountability in treatment programs, supporting progress of the participant, detecting and providing early intervention, serving treatment programs and extending the treatment team into the community.

The bill further states that due to the growing number of participants, the potentially dangerous nature of said officer’s duties and lack of law enforcement authority, the Drug Court must collaborate with and rely on the assistance of officers from the Department of Public Safety.

The bill proposes to empower and define the authority of Community Supervision Officers and Compliance Officers to support the needs of the Drug Court to foster the relationship between collaborating law enforcement agencies to better serve the community.

The bill proposes to allow the Community Supervision Officers to carry firearms and make arrests as required by law and that they must be treated as law enforcement officers.

The proposed amendments to the Drug Court law read as:

“(b) Community Supervision Officers and Compliance Officers shall serve under the Drug Court and shall have the authority and responsibility to: (1) Create, maintain and secure a complete record of each participant placed in a treatment court program. (2) Instruct a participant as to the terms, conditions and restrictions specified by the treatment court program. (3) Keep informed of all terms, conditions and restrictions specified by treatment court. (4) Investigate, exercise general supervision over and monitor compliance of participants which shall include among other things the authority to visit a participant at home, employment site or anywhere else specified by the treatment court to conduct drug tests of participants or take any items prohibited by the conditions of supervision that are observed in plain view. (5) keep records of work performed and report on information concerning a participant’s conduct and compliance with a treatment court program. (6) Use all suitable methods, including the imposition of informal sanctions, not inconsistent with the treatment court program to aid and encourage a participant to effect improvements in conduct. (7) Serve warrants of arrest, make arrests and bring participants before the treatment court when he or she believes that cause for formal sanctions or termination exists (8) Carry a firearm in the performance of official duties and (9) Perform any other duty, or have such powers as are necessary to implement the provisions of this article as deemed appropriate by the treatment court.”

Sections 3 and 4 were also amended to include the Community Supervision Officers and Compliance Officers in the “Law Enforcement Officer.”

The Senate also passed several other measures such as House Bill 20-128 which is to amend 8 CMC Section 1202 (a) to establish separate marriage-license fees for residents and non-residents introduced by Rep. Joseph Leepan Guerrero. The bill now goes to the Governor’s desk for action.

House Bill 20-29 HD1 to appropriate $931,340 thousand from the cancer fund special account earmarked under 4 CMC Section 1402 (g) (2) to support and expand cancer awareness, detection and prevention programs by Rep. Angel Demapan.

The Senate amended it to include $50,000 for the Rota Inter Island Medical Referral patient air transportation service. The bill goes back to the House for action on the Senate’s amendments.

House Bill 20-53 was also passed to establish and clearly define the authority of the Department of Public Works to promulgate rules and regulations within the Rights of Way introduced by Reps BJ Attao, Frank Aguon, Donald Barcinas, Blanco, Frank Dela Cruz, Larry Deleon Guerrero, Leepan Guerrero, Joe Itibus, Janet Maratita, John Paul Sablan and Edmund Villagomez.

Source: Marianas Variety :

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