Commish addresses some long-standing DPS issues
In an interview, last Friday, the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, William Haleck, told Samoa News that he is continuing to address some long-standing issues within his department, including a prison that he says is ‘dirty and filthy and unlivable’, the prison work release program, and arming local police officers.
ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT GIVEN WORK RELEASE
Samoa News had sent questions to Haleck asking why an inmate, who came into the territory on a 30-day permit, was allowed on the jail’s work release program.
The inmate, whose immigration status is in question, is I’umalo Seiuli, who was recently sentenced to serve 20 months in jail, as part of a five-year sentence.
In the interview, Haleck told Samoa News, “It’s an oversight on the Warden’s part to allow this person on work release, yet his immigration status is illegal. However, we will work to assure that these types of incidents will not happen again.”
The Commissioner said the Warden had informed him that he (the Warden) relies on whatever the court gives him, and if the person has served one-third of their sentence, they are eligible for work release.
“The Warden forgot to check further if he’s an illegal immigrant,” said Haleck. “It’s an oversight on his part to allow this to happen. I told him — from now on before you (the Warden) put anyone on work release— you have to contact the Attorney General’s office or call the DPS main office to inquire about the status of any inmate.”
The Warden assured him this would not happen again, according to the Commissioner.
Seiuli has been serving a jail term since Feb.13, 2009 for his conviction of unlawful possession of a Controlled Substance, and while incarcerated the defendant applied for work release, which was granted.
During sentencing, it was revealed from the probation report that the defendant came to the territory on a 30-day permit in 2005, yet Seiuli’s first work release program application was processed and approved on July 14, 2011.
The government claims that the defendant was approved a second time for work release to work for Sili’s Burger and Car Wash where he started on Apr. 23, 2012.
His work release was terminated on Sept. 2, 2011 following the defendant’s random drug test, which came out positive for marijuana, say court filings.
Seiuli’s second work release program was terminated a month after he was hired, following a criminal investigation that was initiated involving employees of Sili’s. They were questioned regarding a box of drugs seized by Customs Officers at the Fagatogo US Post office.
TCF CONDITIONS ARE "NOT LIVABLE"
“The living conditions at the Tafuna Correctional Facility are just horrible. It's dirty, it’s filthy and it’s just, to me… it’s unlivable” said the Police Commissioner, during the interview.
He said currently the Department of Public Works is designing a new prison, but he’s unsure if the engineers, who are working on this project, have had any experience in building such a facility. Haleck said maybe they should hire someone from overseas, who has built prisons, to come and take a look at the type of jail we need.
(Calls to the DPW director regarding this issue were unanswered as of press time).
“My biggest priority is to make sure that the people get what they deserve in terms of the facilities. We're the ones that put them there and we are also responsible for them. They are not animals, they are still human beings despite the fact that they have committed a violation or a crime that put them in jail. Now that they are there, we are responsible to house them, feed them, care for them and keep them away from the community, until they serve their sentence. By the same token, we cannot let them live the way they live now,” he stated.
“Thankfully, through the Department of Interior I found out there’s funds available to build this prison,” Haleck said.
He also said he took a tour of the prison and saw that there are at least six people in one cell and most people don’t have beds, so they sleep on the floor. "If their family members do not provide mats, the inmates end up sleeping on the floor.”
DPS READY TO PROPOSE PLAN TO ARM POLICE OFFICERS
Haleck said that to start the process of arming local police officers, he will be presenting to Gov. Lolo M. Moliga and Attorney General Afoa L Su’esu’e Lutu a manual that spells out the pool of trainings, which police officers will undergo, in order for each officer to be armed.
He showed Samoa News the manual to be presented to the government officials.
He said the law states that the Commissioner of Public Safety can authorize police officers to be armed, as long as the Governor and the AG authorize this move.
Haleck further stated that a psychiatrist must be on board to evaluate each cop, to ascertain if they are psychologically fit to carry a gun. He added that they will also conduct training in the use of less lethal items, like batons, tasers and mace spray. He said the firearm is the last resort, if they see a potential threat to the officer.
The PC added, it has been confirmed by the Honolulu Police Department's (HPD) Chief of Police, Louis M. Kealoha that they will donate their guns to the local DPS for use.
He said that on his recent trip to Hawai’i, he met with Chief Kealoha, who informed him that HPD was upgrading their weapons. Haleck said, Chief Kealoha just emailed him last week confirming that HPD will make a donation of guns to assist the local police.