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Sen. Fonoti: Why are DPS motorcycles parked in front of an eatery?

Department of Public Safety official Silaina Tulafono with Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Sen. Fonoti Tafa’ifa Aufata voiced her sadness — and concerns —  yesterday over what she said she saw yesterday morning on her way to the Senate chamber.

Fonoti said she noticed five police motorcycles, parked in front of a restaurant in Nu’uuli while morning traffic was busy. The Tualauta senator asked if this was the reason why these police motorcycles were purchased — to park in front of this restaurant for breakfast.

Department of Public Safety Police Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson responded that he was not aware of the issue but would look into it.

Fonoti’s comments came after Le’i responded to another lawmaker’s question regarding DPS awaiting one more motorcycle to be added to the fleet.

Towards the end of the hearing, Sen. Satele Galu Satele Sr., acknowledged Fonoti’s statement and shared that he too had noticed recently, four police motorcycles parked along the side of the main road.

Satele said he believes that when the public witness these types of things, they criticize DPS — about why these motorcycles are seen parked along the roadway and where are the officers.

Also during the hearing, Sen. Fonoti posed a direct question to Le’i: Why are inmates escaping from the Territorial Correctional Facility? The Police Commissioner responded that DPS is working on filling vacancies there, as well as addressing recommendations from TCF Warden, Tauese Va’aomala Sunia.

While Le’i didn’t go into details on the recommendations, he did say that DPS made a request to the governor to fill vacant TCF posts and there are now only four positions left to be filled. Le’i didn’t clarify what the vacant positions are, although it's assumed they are for Correctional officers.

Fonoti said she is concerned and wants to ensure the protection of the community, noting that “we only act when something happens.”

Sen. Tuiagamoa Tavai commended Le’i for his initiative, which includes police officers being dispatched to several areas of the island, to monitor traffic. This has helped in preventing speeding in these areas, he said. Tuiagamoa didn’t specify the areas he was referring to, but the main road between Futiga and Lepuapua, and also Fagaalu to Nuuuli, are two stretches of the main road being monitored by police during morning traffic.

Another roadway that motorists have been speeding on is the one from Ili’ili to the airport; and nearby residents have commended DPS for having a police presence there.

Also during the hearing, a request was made for Le’i and the DPS leadership to look at increasing the salaries of officers and firefighters. Lawmakers say police work is very important as the officers protect the lives of the community, and it's a dangerous job, with officers risking their lives.