Police Misconduct To Figure Into Samoa Prison Inquiry

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Commission hears officer shortages to blame for escapes

By Alan Ah Mu

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Sept. 24, 2013) – Files of recent internal Police investigations into alleged misconduct by officers are to be presented as exhibits to the Commission of Inquiry looking into conditions at Tafaigata Prison in Samoa.

The investigations were carried out by the Police’s Professional Standards Unit (PSU).

One of the files covers a probe which led to the sacking of a policewoman who had worked at the prison.

Another file to be submitted to the commission records an investigation by PSU of an allegation made by a female prisoner, named Fa’asalafa, against head of Tafaigata, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Sala Seaga Uili Lafaele.

Acting head of PSU, Superintendent Seiuli Lene Tanielu, said this morning a search will be carried out to locate the file and submit it to the commission.

Superintendent Tanielu said the so-called "Fa’asalafa file" was in the possession of the Commissioner of Police.

A third file covers evidence PSU gathered in an investigation of allegations made by a policewoman Sera Wendt.

It too can be brought forth as an exhibit, Seiuli told commission members Maiava Iulai Toma (Chair), Gatoloai Tili Afamasaga and Su’a Tanielu Su’a.

Su’a asked Superintendent Tanielu about a prison escape where the family of the escapee called Tafaigata Prison to tell officers there to come get the prisoner.

The response from the prison was that they had no motor vehicle available and for the family to put the prisoner in a taxi and send him over.

This was done but on the way to Tafaigata the prisoner took over the taxi and drove it to a fatal crash.

The Superintendent said that incident occurred last year and that there was file on it too.

He said he took over as acting head of PSU January this year and has served 22 years as a Policeman.

PSU investigates allegations of ill-discipline and crimes against Police officers, he said.

With himself, three senior sergeants, one sergeant as investigator and a staffer who works on the database, they cannot carry out the twice monthly "spot checks" on officer performances.

Only one spot check has been done at Tafaigata Prison since he joined.

"I’m uncertain about the time before that," said Superintendent Tanielu in response to a question by commission member Gatoloai.

The commission heard that escapes from prison occur because there are too few police officers against the number of prisoners.

In several instances it was caused by negligence where officers had failed to lock up prisoners when there were few of them on guard duty.

Superintendent Tanielu was the sole witness allocated time today for the commission because members had a visit to Tafaigata Prison scheduled later.

Through questions Attorney General lawyer Sefo Ainuu required him to explain to the commission PSU procedures and other aspects of their work.

The Commissioner of Police has the sole authority to approve the investigation of a matter by PSU.

Based on PSU recommendations the Commissioner too makes the decision of what to do about the findings of an investigation by the unit.

In response to a question by Maiava, Superintendent Tanielu said Police Commissioner Lilomaiava Fou Taialo has never disapproved the investigation of an allegation.

Commissioner Taioalo and Assistant Commissioner Sala Seaga Lafaele are under suspension while the commission carries out its work.

The probe is called the "Commission of Inquiry: Tafaigata Prisons – investigating the allegations regarding the mismanagement and misadministration of Tafaigata Prisons and other related issues."

Ainuu informed commission chairman Maiava of applications by TV3 and Newsline newspaper to accompany them on the visit to the prison.

Maiava turned down the applications saying he preferred for the visit to be "private."

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