Police internal investigation is a logical move

By The Editorial Board 01 October 2023, 10:00AM

The mystery behind a hit-and-run incident in April 2021, which led to the death of an 18-year-old National University of Samoa (NUS) student, continues to make headlines.

In the latest twist, the Police have begun an internal investigation into several officers, who were named by a man who claimed to be an eyewitness to the incident in Vaitele-fou which led to the death of Tuuau Faasavalu. 

A front-page article (Police probe their own over Vaitele-fou case) in yesterday’s edition of the Samoa Observer reported on the confirmation by the Police Commissioner, Auapaau Logoitino Filipo of the internal investigation.

Auapaau was asked if the Police had taken any steps to verify the allegations of evidence, which were allegedly stored on a cellphone owned by Samuelu Sua, which was handed over to the Police to assist in their investigation. 

“Our police officers mentioned by Sam are being investigated internally,” said the Police Commissioner. “The investigation also looks into those allegations of a phone being turned in as evidence.

"It appears that some of the events he mentioned cannot be confirmed but will have full details at the end of the investigation.” 

With a lot of allegations and counter-allegations being made by various parties over the past 29 months – in relation to this particular case – it makes sense that the Police initiate their own inquiry to verify the charge of evidence being concealed by their own officers. This charge should not be taken lightly by the top brass of the ministry, as the concealment or wilful destruction of any form of evidence that is the subject of a trial or investigation, is a crime. 

The timing of the internal investigation by the Police is also interesting – as last week the Acting Prime Minister, Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio indicated – that the Cabinet is also considering bringing in New Zealand Police to investigate the fatal hit-and-run incident.

We agree with the public sentiments that the delay by the law enforcement agencies to deliver justice for this particular case has been frustratingly long for the family of the late Tuuau, which has made it difficult for them to find closure after the tragedy of losing their son and loved one.

But if the internal investigation by the Police identifies and confirms illegal actions among their rank-and-file, which could include the concealing of evidence as alleged by an eyewitness, then the management of the Ministry should act swiftly to address the issue in order to remove any doubts and questions of integrity relating to their own investigations from the public.

We acknowledge that there is also a lot of political pressure on the current administration to intervene in this particular case, which the Acting Prime Minister had already suggested when he talked about setting up a special unit staffed by New Zealand law enforcement officers to look into the case. 

But we believe that this a decision that the Police Commissioner should make independently in consultation with his officers – not Ministers within the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) Cabinet who have on various occasions while discussing this particular case already expressed sentiments that showed their biased positions.

For now, let’s respect the process that the Police Commissioner has already initiated through their own systems, as part of an internal investigation. Realistically, there can only be two outcomes for these types of investigation: the findings will either confirm that there is reason to believe that there was tempering and concealment of the evidence, or the allegations by the purported eyewitness were false and could not be substantiated by the internal police investigation. 

Any talk about getting foreign law enforcement agencies involved in the hit-and-run case should only be held after the outcome of the Police’s internal investigation has concluded and its findings made public.

By The Editorial Board 01 October 2023, 10:00AM
Samoa Observer

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