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AG’s Office reviewing complaint on abuse of power by two senior cops

Police Commissioner Le’i S. Thompson with DPS police officers during the 2016 flag day parade at the VA stadium in Tafuna.  [archive photo: AF]

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The Attorney General’s Office is reviewing a complaint from a concerned citizen, accusing two senior police officers of abusing their powers of law enforcement over an incident that began with one of the senior officers, who was off-duty at the time, and escalated into threats of arrest of the complainant at the Fagatogo Police Station by the other.

Sources confirmed to Samoa News that Attorney General Talauega Eleasalo Ale has assigned one of his attorneys to review the complaint and see what sort of action, if any, needs to be taken.

The complaint letter was sent to the Attorney General’s office and cc’d to the Department of Public Safety. Samoa News obtained a copy of the letter.

Efforts to obtain a comment from the Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson about the incident were unsuccessful, as of press time.

The two officers named in the complaint are both male senior police officers. One of the officers holds the rank of Captain, while the other is a senior officer. The alleged incident took place on the ASCC campus, in front of the nursing building, on Feb. 01, 2018.

According to the complainant, her sister — who was the driver of the vehicle — reversed it, while in the ASCC parking lot, to pick up her up. The senior police officer’s vehicle, which was behind their car, honked his car horn at them. The officer, who the complainant recognized as a police officer, was off duty.

“Our car was not close to his car yet he was still honking. I didn’t see what the problem was since we had leeway and he could have easily driven to the left side of our car, which had space for him to drive out if he wanted to,” according to the complaint.

The complainant explained that while she was standing at the side of their car looking back at the car the off-duty police officer was driving — who continued to beep his car’s horn — the man rolled down his window and told her they’re blocking the road, which according to her, they were not.

 “I politely told him — to be patient as I am getting into the car. He then yelled back that he’s not patient and I didn’t fully hear what else he was yelling out afterwards. So as I got into the back seat and we’re about to drive off onto the main road — the officer was still honking his horn at our car for which my sister honked back and he continued honking,” according to the complaint.

Frustrated, annoyed and angry with the man continuing to honk his car horn, the complainant then rolled down her window and “flipped him off”, while their vehicle continued on to make their way to the hospital.

At some point, she noticed that the off-duty’s officer’s vehicle was one car behind them.

“As we were making our way, passing [through] Faga’alu — a cop truck pulled us aside going into the [Faga’alu] park’s parking lot. We stopped and asked the officer if there was a problem — the officer looked confused and asked us if we had side-swiped a car in Tafuna.

“My sister replied telling the officer we didn’t come from Tafuna. I then asked him if it was his colleague who called since I had recognized him (the off duty officer, who honked his car horn at us) — the officer replied he doesn’t know exactly what’s going on other than he received a call to track our car down and have it pulled over,” according to the complainant.

She said in a minute or two, several police vehicles pulled over to their car (total of probably 5- 6 cars), and other cops approached their vehicle.

The complainant says the off duty police officer was also present — and he walked up to the right side of her car — opened the back door, pointed his finger at her and told her to get out of the car. She refused.

Other police officers who were surrounding the vehicle, and seemed not to know why their vehicle had been stopped, then told the complainant to head to the substation in Fagatogo to resolve the matter.

She says when they arrived at the Fagatogo police station, she and her sister walked inside the police station while the off duty police officer walked to the side of the building with another officer. The off duty police officer then walked inside the police station, sat in the couch across from complainant and asked her why she flipped him off.

In response, she asked the off duty police officer why had he kept honking his car horn at them — which he replied because they were blocking his way.

In the middle of the argument between her, her sister and the off duty police officer inside the Fagatogo police station, another senior officer — who is a Captain — asked the complainant if she had flipped her middle finger to the off duty officer, and she replied yes, telling her reasons for her actions.

The police captain asked her if she knew that the man she flipped off was a police officer. The victim replied yes and stated that being a police officer should have nothing to do with how things escalated the way it did.

The police captain then got frustrated with the complainant and her sister, for defending themselves, and told her sister that she has a smart mouth.

He then stood up and yelled at the complainant saying that he was going to lock her up in jail for disrespecting an officer and for public peace disturbance. He repeatedly said that he would take her to jail for what she did.

She told the police captain how offended and frustrated she was, on how the off duty officer abused his power to call his fellow cops who had no knowledge of what was going on, to track their car and pull them over. He has no right to come to her car, open the right door and call her to come out of her car to where he was standing, she stated.

According to the complainant, the police Captain did not reply to her complaint of harassment by the off duty officer, against not only her but also her sister as well.

“During our conversation, I did not hear the police captain ask the off duty officer for his reason for calling other cops to pull my car over, or as to why he touched my car and harassed me to get out. I felt that his judgment and action was biased and that interrogation were unnecessary and unjust,” the complainant said in her letter.

The woman and her passengers later left the police station without any charges, however the complainant feels that further corrective action should take place especially since officers should be serving the public not harassing civilians.