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Lolo supports the arming of cops amid community concerns

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga [SN file photo]

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga expressed his support in the arming police officers last week, when asked about the issue during a media press conference.

“We were at the late Leala Peter Reid’s office when police officer Det. Lt. Lusila Brown was gunned down," Lolo reminisced. "We heard the gunshots fired and we rushed down to see what happened. I would never allow my son to be a police officer under those conditions, and this is the reason why, from the beginning of our term in office, we've looked at ways to allow the arming of police officers.”

The arming of cops has garnered mixed reactions — and concerns — from the community and the Fono.

Some people support it while others feel that if cops are allowed to carry weapons, perhaps individual citizen should also have the right to bear arms for their own protection.

“Looking at the way police do their job nowadays, this has to go and there’s no running back. People will have different views on the topic but I believe it’s because they aren't used to seeing cops with guns. We have noticed that there are a lot of problems on our shores today: the drugs, alcohol, and people with bad behavior problems.

“We only depend on cops to do the work for us,” Lolo said.

It's been almost two months since 24 cops were officially certified to carry weapons, but Samoa News is still receiving complaints from the community and concerns from Fono members — seeing cops, including the Police Commissioner, carrying weapons while performing their duties.

One of the main questions people are asking is whether cops were fully trained and certified to be armed, including a psych evaluation.

A military retiree told Samoa News he doesn’t want to see a cop carrying a gun in his village. He reflected on the old days when leaders would sit down face to face and discuss ways to reach a solid decision for the safety of the whole village.

One local resident told Samoa news he was shocked to see the Commissioner carrying a gun at the Office of the Motor Vehicles (OMV) in Tafuna a few weeks ago.

“I don’t understand why the Commissioner needs to be armed.  If he believes he has the authority to conduct training for police officers in order for them to be trained and certified, then let the police officers carry weapons — not the Commissioner.”

Another local wants to know whether the officers allowed to carry guns include those who have been convicted of crimes, sent to prison, but are still serving as cops?

“If the Commissioner says he’s following the law, he should stay clear of those police officers who have criminal records but are still serving as police officers,” said the concerned citizen.

In a recent interview with Samoa News, Le’i said that while he is very confident that the men and women at DPS are ready to be armed, he’s not going to arm all police officers, only those who become certified to use weapons and deadly force.

The Commissioner said 24 cops are certified to carry weapons.

He noted that the Tactical Support Team, which is part of the Vice & Narcotics Unit, will be armed 24-7, together with his immediate staff, individuals who are commanders, captains, lieutenants, sergeants, and others.