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American Samoa geared up to host two police conferences this week

A screenshot of an October 1987 group photo of  those who attended the 16th South Pacific Chiefs of Police Conference
Discussions will include issues faced by women in the workplace and of course — drugs

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Some of the delegates for the three-day 48th Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police (PICP) Conference, which opens Wednesday at the Ottoville Professional Building in Tafuna, started arriving over the weekend for the PICP Women’s Advisory Network (WAN) Chair’s Meeting, that kicks off today — also for three days — at the Tradewinds Hotel.

Incoming 2019-2020 WAN chair is DPS officer Vaivasa Wells — a 2011 graduate of the DPS 23rd Police Academy — currently a detective with the DPS Criminal Investigation Division.

Wells’ main focus is addressing issues facing women in the workplace, such as fairness and promotions. “Over the years, women have faced many obstacles and barriers to overcome discrimination and receive the same opportunities available to men,” Wells said in a statement included in the WAN meeting booklet, released ahead of the meeting.

“Although we have narrowed the gap, women still have yet to gain the same respect as men in the workplace. I would like to draw attention to this and discuss solutions, and help eradicate the stereotype that women are seen by men as weak,” she said.

“This misguided point of view has not fueled, but perpetuated, the misconception that women are not qualified for top positions when the fact of the matter is that they are qualified,” she points out. “Ladies, when you hit rock bottom, pick yourself up and continue fighting.”

Outgoing WAN chair, deputy superintendent of the Samoa Police Service, Efo Moalele wishes the incoming chairperson, “All the best”.

“[T]ogether we will continue to support and enhance the contributions of women in policing within the Pacific region, to empower women in policing and to be valued and recognized as essential to the safety and security of our Pacific communities,” Moalele said in a statement included in the WAN meeting booklet.

One goal of this year’s meeting is outlining WAN’s strategic plan for 2020- 24, as well as its action plan. Sessions are planned and special guests are invited to address the gathering in covering a wide range of subjects.

For the PICP conference, which was first hosted by American Samoa in 1987 and again in 1994, Police Chiefs and Commissioners will have the opportunity to hear keynote speakers in the area of drug harm, as well as discuss regional and national approaches and responses.

This year’s theme is “Preventing Drug Harm Within Our Communities.”

The first presenter will be Jeremy Douglas of the United Nation Office on Drugs and Crime, addressing the “Pacific Drug Environment”, according to the conference booklet, which explains that Pacific Island countries and territories have been increasingly targeted for the trans-shipment of illicit drugs, mainly methamphetamine from Asia and cocaine from the Americas. 

“At the same time, no transit region stays a transit region,” it says. Leadership in the Pacific need to understand major changes in theses illicit drug markets, and how connectivity does, and will, impact them.

Other presentations by invited speakers, on Day 1 include:

•     Overview of current and emerging drug activity and trends from the Pacific Transnational Crime Network;

•     Canadian criminal picture affecting the Pacific, including trafficking routes (air, sea, postal), smuggling tactics, and examples of criminals/organized crime in the area, exploiting vulnerabilities, and taking advantage of the current price disparities.

On Day 2, attendees will hear, among other topics, the American Samoa case study as well as the Tonga case study. Tonga police will present on their journey over the past 2 years in combating illicit drugs in Tonga, focusing on policy and operational challenges and how it is changing the way they police Tonga and how they contribute to regional security.

“Our commitment to public safety continues to remain a top priority for our administration,” said Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga in a statement published in the conference booklet. Lolo noted that the administration has established a Drug Task Force Commission charged with the mandate of helping educate and curb the negative impact drugs has on our children and families.

In a statement published in the conference booklet, incoming PICP chair and DPS Commissioner Le’i Sonny Thompson said this year marks a first of many milestones for ASG and DPS, “as we strive to protect and serve the people of American Samoa through the expansion of our strategic partnership with island countries across A Pacific United to effectively prevent drug harm within our communities.”