Top cop responds

Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil, is making no apologies for how the Ministry of Police is being run.

In fact, he says Police officers unhappy with the changes being made should find new jobs.

“The government wants change, that’s why they brought me in,” Commissioner Fuiava told the Sunday Samoan.

  “I’m trying to bring this organisation up to the level that is [the] international standard. I’m trying to drive it forward to hold us accountable.

“If [police officers] don’t agree with those principles then maybe those individuals should not be in this organisation.”

Fuiava made the comment in response to the latest “ghost letter” making a number of allegations that question the administration of the Ministry of Police.

The letter penned by a group, which describes themselves as “Police officers who want to make use of the time and money we are paid with” is addressed to the Police Commissioner. 

Copies of the undated letter, written in Samoan, are also addressed to Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, Minister of Police, Sala Fata Pinati, Ombudsman, Maiava Iulai Toma, Chief Justice, His Honour Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Tuisugaletaua Sofara Aveau, Minister of Public Enterprises, Lautafi Fio Purcell and the Editor of the Samoa Observer.

The letter makes a number of allegations against the administration of the Police service. Among them is the allegation that Commissioner Fuiava is running the Police Force “like a military base.”

 “How can we go and arrest members of the public when the Police officers are leading the way in breaking the law,” the letter reads. “We pledge our oath in this work force because we wanted to assist our country, for everyone to feel safe.  “However we feel it’s been run like a military base by the Commissioner, forgetting that this country is founded upon God.” 

In response, Commissioner Fuiava said the Police Force is in fact, a “quasi-military organisation”. 

“That’s really interesting because if you look at the matai system, it’s run like a military,” he said.  “There is a head matai that makes decisions and once that decision is made, every one aligns with that. If you look at my uniform, it is a military type of uniform, we have a hat as well that copies the military, we have a ranking system, we have a chain of command, we have policies and procedures that mirrors the military. 

“We take orders, we use terms that are used in the military so it’s a quasi-military organization. It’s the same all over the world. Law enforcement mirrors the military, that’s how it is run.

“I’m sorry if some folks in this organization do not agree with that and like that relaxed way of running things as it was before. 

“Now with my way of doing things, I’m bringing in change and that’s part of it. You might not like the change but I tell you it’s based on principles being used overseas and practiced over many years. So I think if someone interprets it as running a Military base, I think it’s a good comment because then I know it’s going the right direction.”

The Commissioner said the status quo in the Police could not remain.

“Everybody has to align, follow the rules, do your job, that’s the bottom line. Do your job and you won’t end up in jail, get suspended. You’ll get praised. Learn your job and do it well, respect people, act professional, man up and be responsible. That’s part of the military.

“I’m trying to bring this organisation up to the level that is [the] international standard. I’m trying to drive it forward to hold us accountable and part of it includes three recent arrests for not doing the right thing.”

Three Police officers have been suspended and are facing charges including corruption.

“It’s only a few ‘squeaky wheel’ [complaining] – but if you talk to most of the officers, they like the change.

“The government wants change, that’s why they brought me in. 

“[The] matai system, where one big matai talks and everybody listens, that is a military system, so if there is any military system, it’s been going on in Samoa for many, many years. If you look at our government as well, there are tiers, that is a military format as well.

“If [police officers] don’t agree with those principles then maybe those individuals should not be in this organisation.”

The letter directs the Commissioner’s attention to a number of issues.

First, they pointed out the main cause of problems was the lack of loyalty in the Force.

Secondly, the letter also questioned a senior officer of allegedly misusing the Police Association Fund.

Thirdly, the letter also questioned issues of morality within the Force, including sexual relationships among colleagues. 

 “Please, we want to do work and uplift the standard of police work, but we are sadden[ed] by how the police is being run,” the letter stated. 

The writers say they are worried because a member of the public could easily sue the Police.

“Under [the] Police code of conduct you should not do anything that could bring the reputation of the Police force into disrepute. But that is happening a lot.”

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