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More police irregularities at Juvenile Detention Center surface

[SN file photo]

A new case about alleged misconduct involving a male DPS officer assigned at the Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) has surfaced.

The matter allegedly happened around October of last year, and a reliable source told Samoa News that a report from the JDC supervisor, provided details of alleged “illegal activities” including the officer allowing a male detainee to escape from JDC in the middle of the night has been handed over to the DPS Commissioner for his attention.

Efforts to obtain a comment from Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson this week were unsuccessful. Assistant Public Defender Kate Hannaher who is handling juvenile cases confirmed to Samoa News this week that she was aware of this alleged incident, and she also spoke to some attorneys from the AG’s office about this case.

Sources told Samoa News that an investigation into this matter was conducted by Detectives from the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) around November of last year. The victim in this case is a 17-year-old male detainee, who is also one of the key witness in the previous matter that was filed in District Court on April 2017, where four DPS officers assigned to JDC in Tafuna have been charged with various crimes.

The mother of the alleged victim is worried about the safety of her son, and she’s asking DPS for a full and complete investigation into this matter.

It is alleged that around October of last year, a male police officer at the JDC allowed a 17-year-old juvenile, who was detained at the JDC, to open the gate of the JDC and go out to meet his girlfriend. This was not the first time this had happened.

Samoa News was able to interview three people about this case — the mother, an attorney from the PD’s office and the police officer who is alleged to be involved in this matter.

According to the mother, the incident was brought to her attention when she visited her son at the JDC around November of last year. While she was talking to her son, a group of police officers and attorneys turned up at the JDC and wanted to talk to her son privately about an alleged incident that had happened a few weeks previously, when a police officer allegedly allowed her son to leave the compound.

After the interview with police, the young man explained everything to his mother, including the time when the police officer allegedly gave him the key to open the JDC main gate late at night, and allowed him to go outside and bring in a lady who was waiting in front of the Office of Public Works compound.

The mother told Samoa News that she was “pissed-off” at the police officer, for allegedly allowing her son to walk freely outside of the JDC at night, while he was supposed to be locked his room.

“My only concern is the safety of my son. JDC was supposed to monitor my son and all other juveniles who are detained inside, but it seems to me that this police officer failed to comply with the law to perform his duties honesty. All I wanted is this police officer to be charged and face consequences for his action,” said the mother.

According to the mother, she was told that this was not the first time this police office allegedly allowed her son to escape from the JDC at night. She said that her son provided a written statement to the police when he was questioned about this matter.

The mother said that after she talked to her son, she then requested a chance to speak to the police officer. During a brief meeting, the police officer allegedly apologized to her for what happened to her son and begged her to please not file a complaint at the DPS main office, because he doesn’t want to lose his job. He said that this is the only job he has to take care of his family and children.

When questioned by Samoa News, the police officer said via a telephone interview that nothing the mother of the juvenile stated happened.

“Nothing happened,” the police officer said on the phone. “Why should I put my family and my job in harm by allowing this kid to go outside at night to meet his girlfriend. I never do that and all those allegations were wrong. I was never interviewed or questioned by police or police officers and I was never told that there is an investigation about myself in regards to any misconduct at where I am working. Those are only allegations, nothing happened,” the police officer said.

Assistant Public Defender Kate Hannaher confirmed to Samoa News that she was present at the JDC when police officers and an attorney from the Attorney General’s office interviewed the young man on Nov. 02, 2017. His mother was also present during the interview.

“My concern is the safety of juveniles detained at the JDC. I’m concerned about their health, their safety and I’ve been pushing the release of this juvenile for a while but was unsuccessfully. These are only allegations, but my main focus is to try and work with attorneys at the AG’s office to make sure the JDC is much more secure for the safeguard of all the juveniles,” said Hannaher.

“Juveniles must follow the rules inside the JDC if they want to get out early. They must behave themselves and comply with all instructions given by the JDC officials.

“For the JDC staff, their responsibility is to answer to the needs of the juveniles, care for them, protect them and make sure they are all in a safe conditions,” concluded Hannaher.