Police collect $45,000 in emergency breach fines
Police have collected about $45,000 in fines from breaches of state of emergency orders as the amount of fines they dispense generally has significantly grown, the Police Commissioner revealed.
Police and Prisons Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil, referred to the number of fines issued since the state of emergency was first introduced in March this year.
Some of the orders include prohibiting public gatherings of more than 100 people and to maintain social distancing of two metres.
According to Fuiavailiili, Police will not be spending the money collected from fines.
“We have written a lot of tickets and have collected about $45,000 worth of fines through this period from entities or people that did not abide by their provision of the state of emergency,” he said.
He also explained that Police are merely the enforcers of the law and also collect the money.
“All this money, not one cent will go directly to Police but it all goes to the Treasury and they allocate specific amounts and for what function of spending,” he said.
The Police and Prisons Commissioner said that last year the money collected by the Ministry of Police was more than $1 million.
“It is the first time ever that this organisation has collected that kind of money. There was not much money collected in the past years,” he said.
He declined to comment further on the reason why but also highlighted that their organisation forecasts collecting millions in this fiscal year.
“It is because now we have taken over the registrations of cars, drivers’ licenses and we write more tickets now, so there’s a lot more collection going on,” he said.
“We don’t touch this money for spending because we are not a state-owned enterprise and I like that because something might happen then there would be someone to blame.
“We are lucky that we don’t have COVID-19 in Samoa but we should always be prepared and think ahead, if it hits us and I am not just talking about the Ministry of Health because they have a lot of responsibilities if it occurs.”
Fuiavailiili also said that he feels for those working on the medical side.
“But for Police as well, we have to come up with all kinds of ways to think this thing through because when it hits, what are we going to do to protect ourselves because we can’t protect others if we get sick,” he said.
“If we look at Australia and America, those are big countries and even they are struggling right now.
“We will do the best we can with what we have with the assistance from all our partners.”
“For the most part, our people are getting used to the restrictions and we have been under a state of emergency for quite some time,” he added.
The Commissioner said that people are now aware of what is expected of them and how to behave.
“Unfortunately Police have to do their work by responding to these things and our side too, you have to use your common sense when dealing with people because everyone has feelings,” he said.
“We have to do our duties with respect by warning them and so we are adjusting too in trying to respond accordingly.”
He also admitted that he was disappointed about a previous false and misleading report from the Samoa Observer newspaper that stated police officers entered churches to count and remove people on Sunday.
“When I saw that, I was very taken aback and mad at my people thinking that they actually did it. I called everyone in and lectured but found out that we never did it,” he said.
“That is the kind of thinking that we have, we are not heavy handed.”
However, he added that if one officer goes off and does something silly, it’s not representative of what they do or the thinking as a whole group.
“The people that are working at the police force are not from Mars or Jupiter, they are from Samoa and are Samoans, so they understand the customs and traditions and they also have families,” he said.
“So far, we have 888 employees under the Police force including officers, that’s a lot of employees.
“But with the assistance of the two Deputy Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners and a new lawyer, it will make our jobs a little bit easier.”
The Commissioner said that he prefers to hire the best qualified people.
“If I can get two people to do the work of ten than it's better compared to hiring ten to do the work of two but end up as headaches,” he said.
“It is because we do not want people to disobey during big operations in case they might not come back or compromise their safety.”