A Cabinet appointed Commission of Inquiry investigating the conduct of two senior Police officers has recommended that their services be terminated.
Chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice, Lesatele Rapi Vaai, the Inquiry focused on the conduct of suspended Police Commissioner Samoa Mulinuu in handling of the criminal matter against Sililoto Peneueta.
His involvement in alleged tampering with witnesses in the District Court case of Police v Mauga Precious Chang was also under the microscope.
The second officer investigated was former Inspector Luatimu Samau. He was accused of alleged witness tampering in the District Court case of Police v Mauga Precious Chang. His conduct in discharging his duties as a police Inspector and whether it breached the Police Code of Conduct was also questioned.
According to a copy of the Commission’s report obtained by the media, the Commission has recommended that both officers be sacked. The Commission that there was “corrupt motive” in their conduct.
For Samau, the Commission found as follows:
“The Commission has concluded that Samau is guilty of misconduct by involving himself in the investigation of the Police v Mauga Chang file. He has however resigned from the Service effective as from 2nd March 2017,” the report reads.
“Our Terms of Reference requires us to make a recommendation as to what action should be taken against Samau. That Term of Reference was based on the assumption that Samau had not resigned from the Service.
“Samau however during his final submissions, expressed the wish that he would liked to return to the Service. He also in his letter of resignation to the Minister of Police made a similar request.
“Had he not resigned we would have recommended that his service be terminated.
“We are satisfied that he had involved himself in the investigation with a corrupt motive; he blatantly ignored the code of conduct issued by the Commissioner pursuant to section 11 Police Service Act 2009; and he is also guilty of misconduct pursuant to section 50 of the same Act.
“His impugned conduct viewed as a whole falls far below the standard that a reasonable member of the Samoan community is entitled to expect from him.”
In the case of the suspended Commissioner, Samoa Mulinu’u, the Commission said:
“The Commission had determined and concluded that the behaviour and conduct of the Assistant Commissioner in both the Sililoto and Police v Mauga Chang matters will be likely to affect the confidence of the community in his performance.
“In considering the appropriate recommendation, the Commission is mindful that the primary purpose of professional disciplinary proceedings is not to punish, but to protect the public, to maintain public confidence in the integrity of the Service and to uphold proper standards of behaviour.
“It was said in the New Zealand High Court in Dentice v Valuers Registration Board (1992) 1 NZLR 720 at 724:
“Although in respect of different professions, the nature of the unprofessional or incompetent conduct which will attract disciplinary charges is variously described, there is a common thread of scope and purpose.
Such provisions exist to enforce a high standard of propriety and professional conduct; to ensure that no person unfitted because of his or her conduct should be allowed to practice the profession in question; to protect both the profession and the public, and the profession itself against persons unfit to practice; and to enable the profession or calling, as a body to ensure that the conduct of members conforms to the standards generally expected of them.”
“But punitive orders have also been recognized to be necessary at times to uphold professional standards. This was recognized and commented on in another New Zealand High Court decision in Patel v Complaints Assessment Committee Auckland HC, 13/08/2007. It was said at 27 and 28:
“ Such penalties may be appropriate because disciplinary proceedings invariably involve issues of deterrence. They are designed in fact to deter both offender and others in the profession from offending in a like manner in the future
“I therefore propose to proceed on the basis that although the protection of the public is a very important consideration, nonetheless the issues of punishment and deterrence must also be taken into account in selecting the appropriate penalty to be imposed.
“The Commission is of the view after considering the circumstances involving the Sililoto matter and the Police v Mauga Chang matter, that the services of the Assistant Commissioner should be terminated.
“The two (2) incidents involved members of the community, one (1) was a police witness, the other was a target of an unfounded complaint.
“An element of corruption played a role in his conduct. He ignored the oath he took when he was sworn in as a police officer, and he also breached the Police Code of Conduct.
“His explanation that his conflict of interest did not influence the integrity of the investigation cannot be accepted. His oath and the Police Code of Conduct required him to disassociate himself with the investigation of the Sililoto matter; he had no choice. It also required him not to interfere in the Police v Mauga Chang matter.
“The Commission cannot ignore his inaction in the Samau’s tribunal matter when he failed to perform as Assistant Commissioner, to facilitate a Tribunal hearing during the three (3) to four (4) months he had the file. His excuse about taking the file home inadvertently cannot be accepted.”