No Police officer will be allowed to bear arms. They will have to wait for permission from the Minister of Police, who will have to consult the Attorney General, in order for Police officers to be armed.
That is according to the Police Powers Amendment Bill 2017, discussed and passed by Parliament on Tuesday.
The bill was tabled by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Police, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi.
“The main objective is to set a pathway so that Minister of Police can authorize and allow police officers to use weapons when necessary in carrying out their work,” he explained.
“This can make sure that police officers don’t use weapons without any valid reason.
The main idea is to protect anyone that can be harmed by these weapons.
“The safety of our police officers and also members of the public is very crucial.”
Tuilaepa said there would be a new process for police officers to follow.
“The process will make it difficult for police officers to use weapons anytime to avoid any trouble,” he said.
“They will have to ask for permission from the Minister (of Police) who will have to consult the Attorney General for legal advice on the using of weapons.”
He said the work of the police is crucial and it is very vital to have laws and regulations to keep them safe as well.
“But in Samoa, there is really no need to use weapons. Our culture plays a vital role in solving issues within our communities.
“For most cases, village councils solve the issues and they sort out most of the problems we have here. Therefore, we don’t really need to use guns.
“This bill will guide the using of weapons by police officers. That is why police have raids to investigate and collect unlicensed and illegal weapons that are imported into the country.”
The bill was widely supported by M.P’s. However, many suggested that the proposed change is time consuming.
M.P from Anoama’a West, Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo said the changes needed to be considered carefully.
“When this (issue) was first discussed in parliament, it wasn’t easy,” said Fonotoe. “But this is Samoa, we have a strong culture and that culture helps police officers with their work.
“However, we need to review the process, especially in case of emergencies.
“It will take a lot of time for police officers to wait for permissions from the Minister who also has to talk to the Attorney General. That’s a lot of work.
“My advice is for our government to look at this carefully. In that way, it won’t take much time for our police officers to respond to emergency situations and possibly life threatening cases.”
The M.P for Urban West, Faumuina Wayne Fong, showed his support for the bill.
But he raised concerns about giving out licenses to members of the public to own guns.
“If we give out more permits and allow members of the public to own guns for their own reasons, there could be a possible case where the number of gun owners can outnumber the total number of police officers and weapons they have.
“That is a major concern. We should review this area.”
Tuilaepa interrupted by reminding Faumuina that the bill before the House did not include a requirement for “permits” or licenses.
Sulumanaia Tauiliili Tuivasa, M.P for Vaimauga East, also supported the bill.
In previous years, he said the Police were armed unnecessarily.
Sulumanaia suggested that a provision should be considered to allow the Village Councils to assist police officers with raids.
“The police officers should inform the village council and they should include them in the process when they have raids. But the proposed change is excluding the village council.
“And my advice is that, the village councils should be included to assist police officers with their work.”
The Minister of Police interrupted by saying that the suggestion put forward by the Member for Vaimauga East has already been implemented.
However, Tuilaepa said that they found out in the previous years that some matai were involved with most cases being investigated by the Police.
“Therefore if we inform the village that the police are going to do a raid, by the time the police arrive, the matai who plant these things (marijuana) or have illegal weapons have already removed these things from their houses or homes.”
But Sulumanaia suggested that they (police) should also firstly inform Members of Parliament for each constituency if there are any going to be any raids, so that M.P’s can assist the Polic.
He added that the Police should use a different type of gun when they raid people’s houses.
“The police should use those types of guns we see on televisions like electrical guns. Because if they use guns, it will just make things worse.
“There have been a lot of changes within the Police Force. Back in the years, there weren’t any cases such as this, and weapons were hardly used. I believe this was because the big fishes (lauia) were in charge at that time. But I think because we now have young people at top positions, I think that’s the reason why we have so many changes.”
Tuilaepa again interrupted Sulumanaia by asking him to be specific on the type of gun he wants the police to use.
“I’ve never seen the type of gun that Sulumanaia has mentioned. Is it a wooden bow?”
To which Sulumanaia replied “no.”
“It is a gun, a gun with electrical bullets that can make someone unconscious for a while, like a laser gun.”
Tuilaepa then again asked him if he was talking about a gun used for cows.
However, Nafo’itoa Talaimanu Keti the Chair of the meeting clarified that Sulumanaia was referring to taser guns.
Opposition Member, Olo Fiti Va’ai also noted his support for the bill.
However, he also agreed that the proposed referral to the Attorney General will prolong the process.
“The thing is, 99% of the work done by police in cases under this bills is considered as emergency cases.
“But the process that they (police) should have to follow will take hours.
“So we really need to look at this very carefully.”
M.P for Falealili East, Fuimaono Samuelu Te’o and M.P for Falealili West, Aumua Isaia Lameko also noted their support for the bill.
However, they suggested that a clause be inserted to clarify the expiration date of warrants.
“An expiration date and enforcement date should be included as well when police are given warrants to use weapons,” said Fuimaono.
“This is done to avoid the use of the warrant for more than one occasion.
He also suggested that the warrant should no longer be valid once the purpose the warrant was granted for is completed.
Moreover, Fuimaono also suggested that there should be a short process so that the Police Commissioner can give permissions for police officer to use weapons so that they can quickly respond and go to do their job.
“This can be done when dealing with emergency matters as opposed to acquiring the approval of the Minister and the Attorney General.”
For M.P for Vaisigano No.1, Lopao’o Natanielu Mua, he advised the Minister to review the proposed changes so that everything is clear.
“For examples, they should be specific about the kind of weapons that police are authorized to use.”
He also urged the Minister to look at the influx of dangerous weapons into the country.
In response, the Minister of Police, Tuilaepa acknowledged all the queries from the Members.
He stated that the Ministry would consider each query in time.
“The issues raised by fellow Members are not new,” said Tuilaepa.
“Those issues were raised by other members before. But leave your trusts with us and we will work on it.”