Task force set up to review DPS gun aspirations
A government task force has been established to review gun policies as the Department of Public Safety is looking at arming police officers, a move that has resulted in concern being voiced by members of the community, including prominent lawmakers, who plan to take up this issue when the Fono convenes later this month.
In a memo issued this week, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga said the ‘Task Force to Review Gun Policies’ is mandated to “determine the adequacy of the established policies to preempt potential incidents which could create government liability due to the failure of the public safety officer to act accordingly due to unclear policies and procedures.”
Moreover, the task force is to investigate options connected with this issue to alleviate public concern over a policy which would arm public safety officers.
One possible option, said Lolo, is to establish a SWAT team to deal with situations where firearms are involved. Another would be to arm public safety officers in phases. The governor has requested a full report for review and decision by the end of this year.
Police Commissioner William Haleck told Samoa News in late November last year, that he had received 24 Glock-17s, which are 9-millimeter handguns which had been purchased through the Criminal Justice Planning Agency, with the approval of the governor for $10,400. Haleck said they went directly to the manufacturer to purchase the guns.
Haleck was looking at the middle of this year to start training police officers who will be chosen from a pool of officers and will be assessed psychologically. After that, they will be able to undergo the actual firearms training, which they must pass.
The governor’s executive assistant, Iulogologo Joseph Pereira said last year that Lolo instructed the police commissioner — that before the public safety officers are allowed to carry firearms in public — they must undergo and pass rigorous training in the use of firearms as well as undergo a complete psychological evaluation to ensure they possess the emotional Intelligence to carry a gun in public.
In his memo establishing the task force, Lolo said to allay concerns expressed by members of the community relating to the decision to arm public safety officers, certain approval benchmarks must be satisfied thoroughly before the decision is implemented.
“One of those benchmarks is the faithful completion of the firearm gun-training along with the completion of the psychological evaluation to determine a police officer’s emotional intelligence,” Lolo said.
For the task force, Lolo appointed acting attorney general Eleasalo Ale as chairman, while its other members include Haleck; Port Administration director Dr. Claire Tuia Poumele; local Homeland Security director Utuali’i Iuniasolua Savusa; Secretary of Samoan Affairs, Satele Galu Satele Sr.; and the Governor’s Chief Legal Counsel Steven Watson.