Firemen out at DPS Leone substation, some assigned to TCF
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Fofo Faipule, Fagaoatua Dorian Salavea is requesting the House Public Safety Committee for a hearing with Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson, to explain why the Fire Division was removed from the Leone Substation. Fagaoatua told the House this week that changes made at the Leone substation not only affects the lives of people living in his district, but also everyone on the west side of the island who rely on assistance from the Fire Division when there is a fire.
Fagaoatua said he was approached by people from his district who work for the Fire Division, informing him that there’s no more Fire Division at the Leone Substation, and firemen who worked there have been transferred to Tafuna, with some of them now assigned by Le'i to guard the two inmates who escaped twice from prison this year.
“Is this is a right thing to do, assigning people who were trained as firemen to do a job that they weren't train to do — guarding prisoners at the Territorial Correction Facility (TCF)?" Fagaoatua asked.
The Fofo faipule said those who were trained to be firemen should be assigned to the exact job they were trained for, instead of guarding escapees in prison.
Fagaoatua said there have been many changes in his district, including new families building homes on lands that were unoccupied in the past, which brings the need for more fire hydrants in his district in case of a fire emergency.
He said the population of people living in his district continues to grow but the services from DPS are diminishing.
Yesterday, Samoa News received a call from the father of a fireman, who has been assigned by Le'i to guard the two inmates — Joe Togitogi and Joseph Iosefa Iakopo — who escaped twice from prison this year. The father complained about the new assignment.
Samoa News understands the firemen are only assigned to guard the inmates during the night shift.
According to the father, his son is one of the two firemen assigned to the job and he is concerned about the safety of his son and the other fireman.
“My son was not trained to guard prisoners, he was trained to be a fireman and he has to work as a fireman, not guard prisoners,” the frustrated father said.
“What happens if these two inmates manage to escape again under the watch of my son and his partner? What happens if there is a big fight amongst the inmates inside the prison, or if prisoners start attacking the guards and escape? What’s the Police Commissioner going to say then?”
According to the concerned father, his son told him they spoke to the Fire Chief about the issue, but were told it was Le'i's instructions and he doesn't know how long it’s going to last.
One of the things the father complained about is the unfair treatment of firemen and police officers currently assigned to the TCF.
According to the father, his son and his partner are looking after Togitogi and Iakopo, both of whom are detained in one of the old prison cells with no air-condition, while cops from the Fagatogo station are assigned to guard other escapees who are detained at the new prison facility, and these police officers are working inside the new office with air conditioning
For his own protection, inside the TCF compound, the concerned father said his son carries a pocketknife every time he’s at the TCF.
The issue about transferring firemen to guard the two escapees at the TCF was also raised by Saole faipule, Kitara Vaiau, who said firemen from his district who worked at the Fagaitua substation have voiced the same concerns, about using them as prison guards although they don’t have the experience for such a task.
Vaiau said that according to the firemen he spoke to, Le'i is using the firemen to guard these specific prisoners to cover for police officers, who are working as volunteers for storm recovery work.
“I don’t support the Police Commissioner’s move to assign uncertified firemen to guard the inmates while police officers are giving up their duties because of the overtime benefit they get from the FEMA program,” Vaiau said.
“If this is the case — using firemen who were never trained to guard prisoners at the TCF — I have a feeling that Le’i can also hire anybody out there, including my village aumaga, to do the job.”