Police Commissioner denies DPS promotion test was rigged

ausage@samoanews.com

Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson has denied complaints from some local cops that not all police officers were notified about the DPS promotion test that was held last week — and as a result, some of them were unable to take the test.

“That’s not correct,” said Le’i. “As far as I’m concerned, the test that was given was fair and square. These are not new things, it’s in the law and statute — and for someone to be complaining that they need more time to prepare for the test, come on, this is the law (pointing to the law book in front of him). This is the law you’re working on everyday.”

Le’i was off-island for two weeks, attending the 21st Commissioner and Chiefs Pacific Meeting in the mainland. He returned home last Friday.

One of the complaining police officers said that not only should they have been given more time to study for the test, but the test must also be issued and overseen by some people from off-island, or members from some other department of the government — such as the Department of Human Resources (DHR) or the Department of the Homeland Security (DHS).

Some of the complaints also noted that the notice was just on a plain piece of paper — that said what the tests were for, when, and where.

According to the notice, the test for Sergeants was conducted last Monday, August 28th at the OMV Training room at 1pm; the test for Lieutenants was on Tuesday with the same time and venue. For PSO, five years and plus, their test was conducted on Thursday with the same time and venue. Test for Captains was conducted at the Central Training room on Friday at 1pm.

The notice also specifies that, “On leave or E-leave, call in sick or late is not accepted. Please be on time. Please answer your phone at all times.”

One of the complaining officers also stated that there would be a lot of grievances filed if “this” does not come out right.

“There are Sergeants who deserve to become Lieutenants, and Lieutenants who deserve to become Captains, and Senior Officers who deserve to become Sergeants. It’s too early to say or assume but a lot of officers have an idea who is already lined up for the ranks whether they pass or not (mostly not),” according to one of the officers' complaints.

A complaining officer pointed out that many of them (officers) love their jobs but they are questioning those with higher positions about what exactly they are trying to do.

“Not all Sergeants and Lieutenants took the test, most likely it will be the same for Senior Officers and Officers 1 & 2, and I feel that this is really unfair. The test was completely conflicted and should not be administered by our own, especially the one who was preparing these tests was one of our own uniformed colleagues who is a Captain,” one of the complaining officers concluded.

In an exclusive interview with Samoa News this week, Le’i said it has been 8 months now since he became DPS Commissioner, and he knows exactly who’s doing what, and their level of job performance, whether satisfactory or unsatisfactory, and whether they really know what they are doing.

“A promotion test is part of the job and as required by law in Title 4 & 7, it’s by the Merit System including your knowledge on how you do your job, how you perform, are you following the law, are you making the right judgment calls, are you communicating effectively to the people, or are you ignoring the law and doing whatever you feel is right,” said Le’i.

The Commish said the job of police officers is to enforce the law everyday, and that’s where their work performance takes place.

When he was appointed to the post of Police Commissioner, that’s when he informed his supervisors that some time in the future, there would be a promotion test and training for police officers.

“I’ve been talking about this issue ever since I came on board because if you’re looking at the structure of the Police force right now, you can see that not only do they not have sufficient rank to manage each station, they also don’t have the rank to make final and good decisions for the public’s safety and the security of the general public,” he said.

Le’i said that after they have done the promotion and salary adjustments, the whole package will be submitted to the governor for his approval, and also to the Department of Human Resources for their review and clarification.

“No one is trying to find fault on anyone, no — but it happens because if you look at the reports filed and the results, it will go on and on. Secondly, the issue of testing is one part of this development,” he continued.

According to Le'i, there are some officers who have been in the force for a long time but they don’t have ranks, nor professional development, and based on discussion with his supervisors, there’s a need for improvement.

As part of the promotion and evaluation, Le’i told Samoa News that he follows through on each police officer when they report to a call, or summons before the Court. He has also worked together with attorneys from the Attorney General’s Office, who provide him with feedback about which police officers are doing well — how they did their job; did they perform well, and how they communicate.

“The police officer’s performance starts when they are on duty, not when they are on annual or sick leave,” said Le’i.

When asked whether the purpose of the test was to make sure that certain police officers  receive their ranks, Le’i said no — the test was for everyone, according to the statute.

“I can assure you that everything is being done according to the regulations and statute. There is no nepotism, no favoritism. All police officers are treated the same — if an officer feels that he or she deserves to receive certain ranks, prove it to me through your work performance in the office and out on the field, and I assure you that you will get what you earn,” the police commissioner said.

About the complaint that police officers should have been given more time to study and prepare themselves for the test, Le’i said cops should understand their job everyday.

“I don’t give you any time to study, that’s your job… and if you have a question, look at the statute, it's been provided for you,” he said.

Despite the complaints from some police officers, Le’i thanked them and their families for their service to the people of American Samoa, making sure that local residents are safe on the road, at their workplace, and even at home.

“I appreciate the work our police officers are doing for the country. It’s not an easy job but they work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to make sure the whole country is safe and secure, and that’s our job,” Le’i concluded.

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