With the request for escorts, the mayors discussed the possibility of replacing the Guam Police Department to provide escorts.
On Wednesday, at a meeting of the Guam Mayor’s Council, mayors decided to leave the funeral escort policy unchanged in order to give local police officers and individual mayors control over the conduct of funeral processions.
According to the law, a funeral procession escorted by the police has right of way at an intersection. The Guam Police Department charges each officer $ 43 an hour with a minimum booking time of two hours.
Kevin Susuico, the Mayor of Agat, noted during the meeting that a funeral procession usually lasts longer than two hours when escorts go to the morgue and mass. The cost can range from $ 500 to $ 800, he added.
And mayors are limited in resources to support funerals.
“We don’t always have staff and vehicles in operation, and sometimes there is more than one vehicle,” said Louise C. Rivera, Mayor of Tamuning-Tumon-Harmon. “Even the Guam police expressed concern that there were too many funerals.”
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Mayors must also consider liability if voters pay it instead of the police.
“As mayors, we think we’re helping our voters, but sometimes we forget that there are liability concerns,” said Susuico. “If we add this to our fee schedule, we may take on greater responsibility in the event, God forbid, that one of our employees is involved in an accident.”
At the last council meeting, Susuico said the mayors had suggested that bikers or some other organization take over the accompanying policy for the funeral.
“We need to get the attorney general’s opinion on those who are going to stop traffic,” he said.
As peace officers, mayors and deputy mayors can do traffic control, but “we are not juniors in the Guam Police Department,” said Susuico.
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The local council leaves the guidelines for attending burials to each village and lets mayors communicate with families to determine the best course of action.
“We’re here to make sure the family gets there, but at the same time we need to make sure we get there safely,” said Susuico.
Reach reporter Anne Wen at email@example.com.