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Senate confirms Haleck, after questions about TCF, contraband and guns

Retired federal law enforcement agent, William E. Haleck was Thursday confirmed by the Senate in a 14-1 vote to be the next Police Commissioner, the person who oversees the Department of Public Safety. He goes for his confirmation hearing before the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security Tuesday morning.Haleck, who has 45 years of law enforcement experience including about four years in the local police force, goes before a House committee next Monday for his confirmation hearing. Prior to the Senate vote, Haleck appeared before the Senate Public Safety/Homeland Security Committee for his confirmation hearing and one of the questions raised was the status of the current Territorial Correctional Facility (TCF). Sen. Faumuina Tagisiaali’i believes the current jail is overcrowded and sought some information on DPS plans for constructing a new jail. Faumuina also inquired about any measures being taken to prevent the influx of illegal weapons and drugs into the territory, saying that people are also using containers to smuggle such contraband into the territory. Haleck said the current correctional facility is an old one and he believes it’s not fully suitable to handle inmates, who are also human beings and should be taken care of and treated right, no matter the crime they committed. Haleck said there is a need to improve TCF and also improve the care of inmates. He said if the care and service for inmates improves, then they will not be tempted into escaping from confinement. At least three times he said, inmates are human beings and should be treated in a humane manner, adding that some cells at the jail do not even have beds. He then revealed that he spoke recently with the U.S. Department of Interior’s field representative in the territory about funding for a new jail and he was told that some $1 million in DOI funds can help build a new jail. However, he believes that the current location of TCF is not the proper place to build a new jail, for the fact that this is a major residential area now. Maybe when the jail was first built, there were not that many people living in that area, he said.As for contraband, Haleck said people are always coming up with new ways of smuggling contraband, such as through container shipments and police should continue to work closely with their counterparts at Customs Office and Quarantine Division of the Agriculture Departments. He said the x-ray machine at the arrival area of the Tafuna airport is an excellent defense in detecting contraband entering the territory. Sen. Mauga T. Asuega told the nominee to heed the advice of looking into additional ways to stop the inflow of drugs and other contraband into the territory. Take DPS “up to the next level,” he said.Sen. Saole Mila suggested that the nominee, once confirmed by the Fono, take another look at the possibility of having police officers carry guns and get an expert to teach officers in the use of such weapons. Saole, a retired judge, recalled a couple of years ago when police responded to an emergency call and upon arrival the alleged suspect was walking around with a gun while police officers had nothing with which to defend themselves. One of the issues raised briefly by some senators is the fact that past police commissioners were also ranking chiefly titleholders but Haleck does not have a matai title. Senate President Gaoteote Tofau Palaie during his remarks echoed this issue as well as the matter of Samoan culture, which can be used in the community to keep peace. Another senator offered a matai title to the nominee.Haleck reminded senators that he grew up and lived here and while many senators may think he doesn’t know the culture, he is well versed in the faaSamoa.Other senators who spoke during the hearing praised Haleck for his law enforcement background and for returning home to serve the people of the territory. More on William Haleck’s confirmation hearings in future issues.