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Le'i says it’s his duty under law to carry out weapons training

Ernie Haleck (middle) - the lead instructor in Firearms and Tactics for the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) and DPS in American Samoa - briefing local police officers last week, on the last day of a 2-week training course that certifies them to carry weapons. See story for details.  [photo: AF]
Cops will be certified to carry weapons and use deadly force

Over two dozen local police officers, including sergeants, lieutenants, captains and commanders, were at the shooting range in Aoloau for two days participating in training drills that complete a 2-week course, which ultimately certifies them to carry weapons.

Also present at the shooting range was course instructor, Ernie Haleck, a retired police officer, but still a ready reserve for the LAPD; Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga; DPS Commissioner, Le’i S. Thompson; Deputy Commissioners, Falana’ipupu Ta’ase Sagapolutele and Vaimaga Maiava; and Department of Homeland Security director, Samana S. Ve’ave’a.

During a brief interview last Friday, Le’i told Samoa News that after the 2-week training, he is confident our local police force is ready to carry weapons while performing their duties.

“We have been receiving a lot of information during training over the last two weeks," he said, adding that they had to take written tests almost on a daily basis, and they were schooled on the physical manipulation of the weapon.

"So I am very confident that the men and women at the Department of Public Safety are ready to be armed,”Le’i said, and pointed out again that “I’m not going to arm all police officers, only those who are being certified to use weapons and deadly force.”

An official ceremony to announce all the cops who are certified to be armed will be held before the end of this month.

Le’i said training on the use of force — which includes the use of deadly force — is now required by law and Title 46 of the statute requires that the Commissioner submit a training and certification program on the use of weapons and deadly force to the governor.

“The training has been completed," Le'i said.

According to Le'i, this is the same training that is already included in local statute.

He said the use of deadly force, the objective, and the unreasonable use of force, is already outlined in the law.

Referring to concerns from the general public about arming officers, the Commissioner said these are not new things.

“I think the concern from the general public, obviously, is because any time something new comes around — although it has been in the law — it will always be something that sparks people's concerns. I, too, am concerned; the police officers are also concerned.

“Nevertheless, there are a lot of facts and information and things happening, and I think the general public is aware that a cop was killed, a DPS sub-station was shattered, and a cop was shot in the face,” Le’i said.

He added that these incidents aren't taken lightly, and he believes it's now time to move forward and fulfill the letter of the law, as it has already been written and is on the books.

Le’i said the community has nothing to worry about, because local police officers are now trained to deal with these things. He said the more police officers are trained and certified, the better it is for them when it comes time to use necessary force by way of a baton, pepper spray, and other tactics and physical maneuvers such as taking down a person.

“And if it all fails, the last resort for those who are in imminent danger is, of course, a weapon,” he said.

While not all police officers will be carrying weapons, Le’i told Samoa News that the Tactical Support Team, which is part of the Vice & Narcotics Unit, will be armed 24-7, together with his immediate staff, individuals who are commanders, captains, lieutenants, sergeants, and others.

“This is not the end of training obviously; there is recurrent training every month, because some of our officers are qualified to be instructors and we will continue to do these types of training to perfect ourselves every month, and so forth,” the Commissioner said.

Le’i reiterated that it is part of his authority under the law to ensure this training is conducted thoroughly — step by step — in order for cops to be certified to be armed while performing their duties.

He said the group of police officers who have been selected to be part of this training are top officers in the department.

“I told police officers that there’s no question about how dangerous our job is; but if we can learn everything and get certified, we can put together a good team to protect our country.

“There are very serious issues around our island today, and we can cure them all if we work together. That is why I have a lot of confidence in this group of police officers I  selected to be part of this training. They are all special and I know they can do better,” Le’i said.