FONO ASKS BoH TO RE-CONSIDER DECISION TO CLOSE
The Fono has approved a Senate Concurrent Resolution calling on Bank of Hawai’i to reconsider its decision to completely close down its American Samoa operations, which have been a “permanent fixture” in the territory since 1969.
The non-binding resolution also offers the Legislature’s strong support of the Lolo Administration’s efforts to “persuade” BoH to remain in the territory. The measure, approved by the Senate on Tuesday and yesterday by the House, is co-sponsored by all the senators.
Sen. Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono introduced the resolution, and is the key sponsor.
BoH has twice delayed the full shut down of its local operations and late last year announced that the current delay is now indefinite, saying that until the Honolulu-based financial institution is “comfortable that the depository needs of the territory can be appropriately accommodated,” they will not fully close. “We want to be supportive,” they stated.
The Fono resolution says that despite the “generous offer” by BoH “to remove the hard deadlines for its departure, there continues to remain a deep desire by a hopeful people that it would also reconsider its decision to permanently depart from the territory.”
Additionally, BoH “remains a symbol of progress and success” in the territory and it has shared in the “development of our challenged economy”.
According to senators it’s essential for local leaders to extend their support of the governor’s efforts to resume communications with BoH officials to continue service in the territory.
“It is also important that the government do all it can to keep a bank which has contributed to American Samoa’s history and has become a fixture in the everyday lives of its people,” they says.
In closing, the Legislature requests BoH “to reconsider its decision to discontinue its service to the people of American Samoa,”
Late last month, BoH’s local branch manager EJ Ozu told Samoa News that BoH “has not set a definite closure date. Our intentions to close remain — however, we have committed to not do so until there are other adequate banking options available in the market.”
COMMUNITY POLICING FUNDING ISSUE
In order to implement the preliminary stage of the community policing program, Police Commissioner William Haleck says he will use the Department of Public Safety’s current resources, and in the future, as the program moves forward, he will explore more funding if necessary.
Haleck made the comments recently, during the House Public Safety Committee hearing where Commander Tauese Va’a Sunia made a presentation on the community policing program, which will first target Tualauta county — the most populated county in the territory — as well as part of Nu’uuli village.
Rep. Larry Sanitoa asked how DPS is funding this program and “moving forward, how is it going to be funded in the future?”
Haleck responded, “Currently we haven’t [been] really looking at exploring any kind of funding” but DPS is hoping, with the assistance of current staff — including DPS liaison officers Levu Solaita and Paogofie Fiaigoa — to implement the outreach program, starting with church and village leaders.
“I am hoping that we can get the community involved and I don’t think there should be any expenses other than the community looking after themselves. With the knowledge that we will be providing them this community policing program, to organize and teach them... to look after themselves,” he said.
“For example, if you live in a neighborhood and all the residents are going to work, but one neighbor, a wife or a spouse is behind in the neighborhood, they see someone walking around that doesn't belong there— call the police because we cannot be around all the time,” he said.
“...but if we need to get some future funding, that is something that we will have to think about and we will hopefully look at grant monies” … Haleck said, and noted that “we are currently in the preliminary stages” of the community policing program.
He reiterated the use of current DPS resources at this early stage of the program.
POLICE ACADEMY TO BE SET UP THIS YEAR
Responding to House committee questions on efforts of DPS to increase its current police force, which stands at 148 police officers for the territory’s population of just over 50,000 people, Haleck says DPS will start a police academy around May this year, with 20 new officers.
Upon graduation from the academy, Haleck says each of the police stations — Leone, Tafuna, Central (the main police station in Fagatogo) and Fagaitua — will get five new officers each. He says funding for the academy has been secured to train and hire these officers, who hopefully will be on board by August this year.
(During last September’s FY 2014 budget hearings, Haleck told lawmakers that if DPS’ FY 2014 budget is approved the department will be able to recruit 20 new officers who will enroll in a police academy funded by local revenue.)
Additionally, DPS has also hired ten new officers for the Territorial Correctional Facility to replace vacancies after officers were let go due to problems at the jail,” Haleck told the committee, adding that with the new changes at the TCF, including a new warden, work performance there is 100%.
Funding from CJPA is being used to hire the ten new correctional officers, said Haleck.
Rep. Fetu Fetui Jr., a former police officer, made a suggestion to Haleck and DPS, “If you hire new officers, hire the right people to ensure there are no other problems faced by Public Safety.”