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Police probe perjury, brutality allegations

The Police is investigating allegations of brutality in a case where several Police officers are also accused of perjury.

The investigation is being carried out by the Professional Standards Unit (P.S.U) in the Ministry of Police, the Commissioner of Police, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil confirmed.

The investigation follows a verdict delivered in December by the District Court that found Constable Tutagi Momoe guilty of assaulting a suspect in 2018 at the Faleata Police station. 

Judge Alalatoa Rosella Papali’i described Momoe’s actions as a prime example of police brutality. She also condemned the actions of three other police officers for “lying under oath” during the trial.

Judge Alalatoa said the evidence from the Police officers who testified for Momo'e was an attempt to cover up his actions. She said they should be held accountable for their action.

Asked for a comment, Police Commissioner Fuiavailiili said the actions by all the officers involved were unacceptable.

“There is a case over at the Professional Standard [Unit] looking into those allegations that was reported by your newspaper,” the Commissioner told the Samoa Observer during an interview.

“We will have to get the transcript [from Court] and also talk to the Attorney General’s Office and make a determination of what to do with the officers [accused] if they committed perjury which is against the law and can be charged and go to jail for that.”

 About the assault that Momoe was found guilty of, Fuiavailiili said it is unfortunate what happened to the officer that has now cost him his career and freedom. 

Momoe is currently in custody pending his sentence this month before the District Court. 

He said the case will be used as an example to every officer in the Samoa Police Service that they cannot abuse members of the public. 

In his view, the Commissioner said at some degree his organisation failed Momoe. 

“What I have told our senior management is that maybe if you were a little more vigilant and had figuratively corrected and monitored him and did a personal investigation against the officer maybe it wouldn’t have led to this,” said Fuiavailiili. 

“In a way we failed to fix those things and we now have a roll call before every shift so that the officers will be reminded and know what is expected of them and what is not acceptable. 

“The roll call is to go through new directives, new laws and policies and how to drive them so they can work towards that and keep them out of trouble.

“You don’t have to be a cop to know that it is wrong to beat someone up and use excessive force to get a confession.”  

He also referred to policies within the Police force that officers need to follow before they can charge someone. 

In the case of Momoe, the Court heard that there were insufficient evidence against the suspected that he assaulted. 

The victim in the assault by Momoe was a young man identified as Peresetene.

He sustained cut and injuries to his ears, chest and body, the Court heard. 

The victim was taken to the Faleata police station together with his brother and another man for an alleged burglary and theft incident at Nu’u in 2018. 

According to the evidence before the Court, the suspects were charged by Momoe and were remanded in custody for a month and two weeks. 

The charges against the men were later withdrawn in the Supreme Court due to insufficient evidence. 

Prior to that, Peresetene was allegedly assaulted by Momoe at Faleata when he continued to deny he had no involvement in the burglary and theft. 

Judge Alalatoa said it is fair to say that by the time the men were taken in for questioning, Momoe did not have sufficient evidence to link them to the crime. 

“And it was under that same belief Tuitagi that you brought them back with hope to interrogate them,” she ruled. 

“By that time, you were nowhere near solving your case with these young men concerned and you saw the opportunity to interrogate Peresente thinking he was drunk as you claimed. 

“You took him with one other officer at the back of the room where Peresente was brutally assaulted continuously.

“When he failed to be cooperative, when you were unsuccessful in coercing a confession from him, you assaulted him to the point where he blacked out.” 

The Commissioner said he was puzzled as to how the victim in the assault was charged in the absence of probable cause to charge him. 

“The Officer in Charge has to review the case and make sure the legality of the case is there and there is enough evidence to prosecute,” he said. 

“Then an individual has to be charged and brought to Police headquarter [as opposed] in the past [police] used to charge people in outpost now there is one central area to charge someone with a Commissioner officer that reviews the investigation to make sure its thorough and is not bias. 

“This case it confuses me if it was not done thoroughly or was it not reviewed…” 

Momoe will be sentenced on 13 January 2020. 

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