The Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil, has been charged in relation to the wrongful arrest of member of the public, Suitupe Misa, at the Fugalei market last year.
He is due to appear in the Supreme Court on 29 August to answer to the charges. This was confirmed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, Papali’i John Taimalelagi.
Although the C.E.O. could not confirm the charges, the Samoa Observer understands that they include unlawful detain, perjury, providing a false report and disorderly conduct in a public place.
Papali’i said the charges were filed with the Court on 12 August 2016 by the National Prosecution Office.
He declined to comment further. But a Police source told the Samoa Observer that the Commissioner was only informed about the charges yesterday.
Attempts to contact the Commissioner for a comment were unsuccessful.
Police Media Officer, Maotaoalii Kaioneta Kitiona, said the Commissioner’s case is handled by the National Prosecution Office.
“If there are charges against him, then it was filed by the N.P.O. but not the Police,” he said.
Asked about the possibility of the Commissioner being suspended, Maotaoali’i said that would have to be determined by Cabinet.
Earlier this year, Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma blasted the behaviour of the Police – including Police CommissionerFuiava – as "irresponsible", "unlawful" and "cruel."
The criticisms were made in the findings of an investigation by the Ombudsman’s Office into a complaint made by Mr. Misa, over an incident at the Fugalei market on 18 August 2015.
Described as a “watershed moment in the history of Samoa,” the incident saw the Police use firearms in a public place to carry out a pre-planned arrest of an individual.
Mr. Misa was arrested at gunpoint by a contingent of armed plain clothed officers in front of a shocked and distressed Fugalei marketplace. It transpired that Mr. Misa had "committed no crime" and the arrest was "carried out based on insubstantial and second-hand evidence."
Mr. Misa lodged a complaint against the Police, which was investigated by the Ombudsman’s Office. The findings of the investigation raise serious questions about the actions of the Police and the Commissioner.
“The Commissioner of Police failed to meet basic investigation principles and placed undue consideration on second hand evidence, leading directly to the wrongful and unlawful arrest of Suitupe,” the report’s findings reads.
“The Commissioner’s decision to arm and allow the use of firearms by his officers contravened the Use of Force policy, was irresponsible, and could negatively impact the overall safety and security within Samoa.
“The Commissioner failed to take appropriate steps to identify the actions of his officers as being part of a police operation, leading to widespread distress and in one case serious health issues.”