Pacific News Minute: Samoan Police in Uproar; Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner Suspended

Nov 30, 2016

Credit Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade / Flickr

The Police Force in Samoa is in turmoil...the Commissioner faces more than 250 criminal charges, both he and the deputy commissioner have been suspended, and an official Commission of Inquiry has just postponed the start of its investigation indefinitely.  We have more from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

A year and a half ago, Samoa hired an outside professional to restore confidence in its long troubled police force. Though born in Samoa, Egon Lincoln Keil earned his degree in Criminal Justice in California and began a long career in the Los Angeles Police Department in 1995. When he beat out 12 other applicants, Police Minister Sala Fata Pinati cited his vast experience and impeccable record. But even then, some on the force objected.

Earlier this fall, 40 Samoan officers signed a petition declaring no confidence in his leadership and said he lacked knowledge of local laws and the Constitution.  Four criminal charges were filed but quickly dismissed for lack of evidence. The Commissioner, now known as Fuiavilili Egon Keil, told Radio New Zealand that a few on the force oppose his reform agenda; "I'm holding them accountable to what they should do in the first place."

Just days later, he was arrested on 259 criminal charges, including 120 firearms violations and single counts of inciting, seeking to procure and counseling murder.  Assistant Police Commissioner Samoa  Mulinuu Mulinuu was suspended for failing to tell the government in advance that the Commissioner was about to be arrested.

The prime minister's office says a Commission of Inquiry into the police will not be rushed and that the scope of the inquiry demands purposeful consideration.