Court questions existence — and validity — of police procedures on the road
“ .. there’s rule of substitution for people to appear in Court, and for this hearing, I want to see the Police Commissioner in Court, not his deputy.”
This was the clear message from District Court Judge Fiti Sunia during an Order to Show Cause hearing last Friday, for which DPS Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson was subpoenaed to appear, but he did not.
Instead, DPS deputy commissioner Falana’ipupu Taase Sagapolutele appeared on his behalf.
Assistant Attorney General Christy Dunn informed the Court that Le'i was not available, and that’s why his deputy was there.
According to the District Court's daily calendar for Friday, Dec 08, 2017, the case of “354786 ASG vs Dorah Sua”, was scheduled for review that day.
Le’i and former KHJ Radio news reporter, Tauva Esera were ordered by the Court to appear during the Order to Show Cause hearing. Neither of the them appeared. The hearing has been continued to Jan. 23, 2018, and Sunia has ordered the government's attorney to inform Le'i that he needs to be in Court on that day.
According to court proceedings, the hearing had to do with a traffic violation against Sua, who is challenging the citation. Le’i was subpoenaed to explain DPS procedures for police officers when engaging with the community on public highways.
Esera, on the other hand, is accused of using her cellphone to allegedly record a hearing inside the courtroom last month. Sources tell Samoa News that Esera’s cellphone was confiscated by the court marshall and the judge was informed of the situation. Esera has been advised by the Court to seek an attorney to advise her in this matter. She has not been charged.
Sunia said the reason for last week's hearing was for Le’i to appear in Court, to explain the procedures police officers use while performing their duties on public highways.
The judge acknowledged he received information that Le’i would not be present in Court for the hearing, but he sent a substitute. The District Court judge reminded the government attorney that there are rules of substitution for people to appear, and the Court really wants the police commissioner to appear.
Sunia then called Falana’ipupu to the stand, and asked him numerous questions in regards to his role at DPS, what procedures and policies DPS is using, and what steps he takes when a person in being investigated for a crime he/ she is accused of.
After Falana’ipupu introduced himself to the Court, Sunia asked if DPS has a standard operation policy, and whether it is valid.
Responding politely, Falana’ipupu, who has worked for DPS for over 23 years, said DPS does have a standard operation to guide police officers on how to conduct their daily duty, and as far as he knows, it is still valid.
The judge then instructed the court clerk to hand over to the witness a piece of paper which was identified as exhibit #2, the DPS flow-chart.
Sunia asked the witness if he's seen that flow chart before, and the witness said yes. He then asked if that flow chart was part of the DPS operations procedure and the witness replied yes.
“What was the process you went through to adopt that procedure?” Sunia asked Falana’ipupu, who said DPS distributes copies of said procedure to each police station so cops are aware of it and follow through with it.
Sunia then shifted his questions from DPS procedures to the DPS academy.
“How many academies have you been involved with throughout the 23 years of your career?” Sunia asked.
Falana'ipupu replied, “More than 2, your honor.”
“Have you taught at any of those academies?” Sunia asked.
Falana’ipupu replied yes.
When he was done, Sunia asked the government attorney whether she had any questions for the witness. Prosecutor Dunn asked Falana’ipupu if the piece of paper he was holding explains DPS's new policy and Falana’ipupu said, “Yes, it's a new way to explain the new policy.”
Judge Sunia immediately interjected and asked the witness, “What's the policy?” Falana’ipupu said every time a police officer makes a stop on the road for a traffic violation, that officer has to make sure he/ she complies with the law.
Sunia wanted to know how DPS operated before they adopted this new policy, and Falana’ipupu said cops needed to comply with the law.
Judge Sunia shifted his questions again, this time from the policy issue to the witnesss’ career.
He asked Falana'ipupu what position he held before he was appointed as deputy commissioner. Falana’ipupu said he was commander for the Criminal Investigation Division (CID).
“So you’re an investigation police officer?” Sunia asked, to which Falana’ipupu responded affirmatively.
Sunia asked the witness what method he used — as an investigating police officer — to find people in unknown matters, like incidents with no suspects, no witnesses, etc.
Falana’ipupu said he first asks for the person’s I.D., and if there’s no I.D on the person, he has to look for someone who might know that person, and he has to ask if this person has a family.
“And that’s not part of the flow chart, right?” Sunia asked.
Falana’ipupu replied no.
The case is continued to Jan. 23rd, 2018.