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Public outcry of cops’ “lemafaufau” has DPS planning attitude training

“Disrespectful, unprofessional and rude” were the words used by the Commissioner of Public Safety William Bill Haleck describing the attitude of police officers as reported to him on numerous occasions from the public, Senators and Representatives.


This came in response to Samoa News queries about the Department of Public Safety’s game plan following public complaints by the Senators last month, where they publicly stated that officers have no manners.


The complaints were made to the Commissioner when he appeared before the Senate on the issue of arming police officers.


According to Senator Soliai, DPS should firstly train their police officers to approach the public with respect — because some of the police officers have no manners (lemafaufau) and have no knowledge as to how to speak with respect when approaching the public, said Soliai.


The Commissioner told Samoa News there will be a five-day training for all police officers, and Training Commander, Tauese Va’a Sunia will be conducting this in-service training. It will include people relations skills, police protocol, handling of cases and how they should approach the public in any type of case.


(During the same Senate hearing, Senator Galea’i Tuufuli and Magalei Logovi’i had urged DPS to prioritize training of the police officers in writing police reports, as well as teaching them the law.)


According to the Commissioner, there have been a lot of complaints from the general public regarding officers’ approach. “They are being rude, they are unprofessional, even when they are issuing tickets on the highway,” he stated.


“We’re public servants, we should not be rude; if we stop someone for a violation of a traffic law, issue the ticket and be polite about it, you don't need to be rude to the person,” he said.


Haleck noted that this training will also reiterate the fact that it’s up to the officer's discretion as to whether to issue the ticket or not; there’s another avenue they can take, such as a warning.


The Commissioner was asked if it was okay to give a warning rather than a citation.


“I believe that it’s up to the officer’s discretion to issue a traffic citation or not, and also it depends on the violation. But often times, like I said, the officer can issue a warning or issue a ticket — those are the two things in the officer’s mind. This is a small community, and I'm sure the officer knows everyone," he added.


He gave an example of someone going one mile over the speed limit of 25 mph. Ticketing this person may not “fly" with the District Court Judge, he said.


Haleck continued, “however, if a person is ticketed three or four times a month — now with that person, the officer should not be lenient, because it appears this person does not care about violating the law.”


According to the instructor, Commander Tauese, the training was initially slated to start at the beginning of this year however it was postponed. Following the hearing before the Senators last month, the Commissioner wanted to hold this training for every police officer, from patrol officers, to traffic and highway officers and every officer who encounters the public all the time.


When asked if this was the first time for such training, Tauese responded, no. He explained that during extensive training at the police academy this issue is on the curriculum and the officers are taught how to approach the public.


They will revisit and remind the officers on the handling of cases, court procedures and other issues that need to be addressed, he explained, but it will mainly focus on the approach to the public when officers carry out their daily duties.


“Unfortunately, it does happen now and then that a complaint surfaces regarding certain behavior of a particular officer, but that does not say that all police officers are like that,” the Commander said.


“I know for a fact there are a lot of police officers who are really good. They need to be reminded why they do what they do,” he said, and noted that he can teach the curriculum to the officers, however he cannot control their actions and what they make of the training they are given.


According to a retired police officer who did not wish to be named, that study shows that an officer's demeanor and actions are crucial to perceptions of police legitimacy. If officers communicate well, listen and treat citizens with respect, citizens will respond in kind.


People who perceive that they received “procedural justice” are also likely to perceive the police as legitimate and trustworthy and are likely to comply in the future.


Procedural justice is the notion that a process is fair and that people have the opportunity to be heard, are treated politely and respectfully, and are judged by a neutral system, free of bias.