Police to take over traffic enforcement powers

The tussle between the Ministry of Police and the Land Transport Authority (LTA) over traffic enforcement powers is over.

The Ministry of Police advised in a public notice dated April 26, 2019 that the transition of the traffic unit from the LTA to the Ministry will go into effect Monday, April 29.

"Therefore, the Ministry of Police will be undertaking all the duties and responsibilities related to traffic enforcement. We ask for your patience whilst we through this transition," the public notice read.

The public notice was posted on the Ministry of Police's Facebook page last Friday, three days after Cabinet met and endorsed the changes 

Deputy Police Commissioner, Papali’i Monalisa Keti, told the Samoa Observer that they are working with the Attorney General's Office and the LTA to ensure a smooth transition. 

“We have yet to complete the transition and we are working with the Attorney General’s Office and the L.T.A. to sort out the alteration, before the actual transition takes place. 

“So the public notice is to inform the public the traffic police officers be conducting traffic enforcement on the public road, come Monday,” she said. 

Papali’i downplayed concerns about the minimal time-frame being given by the Cabinet to see through the transition of L.T.A. officers to the Police. 

“Not necessarily, we will be working on the actual transitioning next week with the A.G.’s office as well as the L.T.A.,” she added. 

Last year Commissioner of Police, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil wrote to the Prime Minister and the Police Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi to request that the Road Traffic Act 2009 is amended to enable Police to create and print its own traffic offence notices, issue traffic citations and get credit for revenue generated from traffic fines.

“Additionally, not mentioned in the previous correspondence for Cabinet, to reconsider returning all law enforcement functions related to traffic enforcement to the Samoa Police Service. After all Samoa Police Service is a 24-hour law enforcement entity, unlike Land Transport Authority. 

"With Land Transport Authority’s efforts directed away from street enforcement, they can focus on administrative mandates such as driver’s license and vehicular registration requirements, including road construction and maintenance and vehicular safety inspections conducted on their premises,” Fuiavailiili wrote in his letter.

Emails sent to the L.T.A. Chief Executive Officer, Galumalemana Ta’atialeoitiiti Tutuvanu-Schwalger, to seek her comment on the impact of the Government's decision on the authority did not get a response. 

However, earlier this year, Galumalemana noted the high volume of minor traffic offences being processed by the Traffic Division was set up under Land Transport Authority to deal with minor traffic offences. 

According to Galumalemana, there are valid reasons why the responsibilities of traffic law enforcement were transferred from the Ministry of Police to the Land Transport Authority. These included the increasing prevalence of minor traffic offences, such as not wearing seat belts and driving without a license – leading to a high volume of notices being issued.

The staffing numbers at the Land Transport Authority will also be affected if the Cabinet agreed to the proposed amendments, she added at that time.

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