Police officers object to preferential treatment for Miss American Samoa
Commanding Officer of the Traffic Division for the Department of Public Safety, Lt Siaosi Aiono confirmed with Samoa News that a bench warrant was issued for Miss American Samoa Annelise Sword, however she was not arrested but instead was called to come into the court.
This move did not sit well with police officers, who believe that once a bench warrant has been issued, that person must be arrested. Police officers, who were not authorized to speak to media, told Samoa News that the bench warrant was issued last month in Ms. Sword’s name.
According to the police officers, Ms Sword was pulled over for speeding last month and she was cited. The traffic officer then went into the court last week Thursday to be told by the court clerks that Miss American Samoa has a bench warrant in her name. The said officer then offered to go and serve the bench warrant, and on his way to serve the warrant he called in to report to his supervisor that he would be serving the warrant.
However the traffic officer was instructed to return to the police station and turn the bench warrant in to Lt. Aiono.
Samoa News contacted Lt. Aiono, who confirmed that a bench warrant had been issued for Ms Sword’s arrest for not showing at court for her traffic citations, but denied that he stopped the officer from serving the bench warrant.
Samoa News then contacted the traffic officer, however he declined to comment but only confirmed there was a bench warrant issued in Sword’s name.
According to disgruntled police officers, the matter was settled internally. It’s alleged that Lt. Aiono contacted Miss American Samoa to go to court, saying that otherwise the police officers would be serving her with a bench warrant, and she would be arrested. The officers went on to say that — according to Aiono — the call came from the Commissioner’s office, as this is his niece.
However Commissioner of Public Safety, William Haleck told Samoa News this was not the case, and he was not aware there was a bench warrant in Sword’s name. However the Commissioner told Samoa News regarding bench warrants, “It’s up to the decision of the police officer to do whatever is necessary, it is their call — whether they go out and serve it, or call that person to come into the court, either way.”
The police officers say that it’s unfair to the law and the people of American Samoa, who have been arrested on bench warrants, yet for this case, Ms Sword was called to turn herself in when she should have been arrested, as per the bench warrant issued.
However that is not the explanation given by Deputy Court Marshal Michael Nix, who is usually the person executing bench warrants.
“Whenever there is a bench warrant issued for a person, that person must be arrested, we don’t call them to come into court, that’s not how it works.” He told Samoa News that every bench warrant they have executed, when they find that person, he/ she is arrested and taken to jail unless the court is open — then he/ she is taken to the court.
Nix also told Samoa News that Ms. Sword should have been arrested and then appeared in court, who will then make the determination from the bench.
Samoa News understands that Miss American Samoa appeared in court on Thursday, however it’s unclear how many traffic citations led the court to issue a bench warrant in her name.
Efforts to obtain comments from Ms Sword were unsuccessful as phone calls to her were not answered or returned, immediately.