My first experiences with the Samoan Police were not entirely enjoyable. Three officers lied to me and tricked me into believing that they would do something different from their stated intentions. I hated them for their deceit and myself also for getting sucked into their deception.
I know that they drove away thinking that they were smart to have conned a Palagi. They certainly did and they got away with it too because in those days I trusted and didn’t record names and take photos.
I do now.
I should have learned my lesson at that point and listened to what the locals were telling me . . . that they (the Police) were ALL corrupt. I had to learn this the hard way though because I foolishly continued to trust them, day after day after week after week after year after year. I hoped, more than believed, that there was some chance of finding professionalism and integrity in the Samoan police.
It has been a hope in vain.
I have numerous stories I can tell about the Samoan Police from more than five years living in a country of thieves1.
When we took possession of our land we installed a private road and delivered a 40-foot container. Our first guests were Police Officers, arriving at midnight, to be precise. Five police officers arriving on Palagi controlled land in the middle of the night in Samoa spells only one thing – C-O-R-R-U-P-T-I-O-N. They hurriedly made excuses and departed when they were approached, for little did they realise that three of us were sleeping there – one of us in a hammock and two of us under a plastic cover! Unfortunately I was sleeping through the incident and didn’t get to hear about it until the next morning so we had no real opportunity to follow-up or identify the would-be thieves.
In 2011, I lodged a complaint of wilful damage and theft against two boys (half-brothers Henry Voors Winden and EJ Schmidt from Alafua/Sigamoga). Rather than prosecuting, instead I was arrested by a crooked cop, at that time a Sergeant Norman T. Meni. The two boys had conspired to lay false complaints and had obtained false evidence from another two witnesses and laid a [false] counter-charge. Their plan has worked well for more than four years.
At the time of writing it has been four years and I have phoned, emailed, met with the Samoan Police two hundred eight times attempting to have justice served. I’ve been to the Prime Minister, laid a formal complaint to the Police Commissioner at the time, spoken to the Assistance Commissioners many times, and sought assistance from many of the changing personnel at the Police Standards Unit, as well as a formal complaint to the Ombudsman. I even popped in to the new Police Commissioner to give him a heads-up of trouble, specifically asking him that he note my case with the PSU.
The sum total – forget about it!
Basically nobody in Samoa does ANYTHING unless they HAVE to. An aggrieved Palagi falsely arrested and subject to Corruption is actually quite ‘cute’ to the locals and it will be a cold day in hell before any Samoan would stand up and let a Palagi bring shame on Samoa, hence years of platitudes, smiles and . . . nothing!
In one incident relating to this saga, a brand new Stihl weedeater was stolen, the boy continued to use it in public, the police charged him, he pleaded guilty, then was allowed to sell the weedeater after having confessed to stealing it! The police did nothing and he still hasn’t faced justice. That’s the practical face of Police Corruption in Samoa. Too bad, Palagi eh?
I tracked down a couple of compressors stolen by another boy and the boy ended up with seven months in jail as a result. We knew where the stolen goods were located (bought by a shop in Faleasiu Uta) yet they were never recovered!
I later found the thief on the street outside our land during the Christmas/New Year holidays, clearly casing the joint yet again. He was out of jail because it was Christmas time! My neighbour and I had words with him such that if he is seem back in our street again he knows that it could be very painful, perhaps even terminal.
Such stories abound here in Samoa.
Essentially, Samoans prefer to act only when they have to, thus when a superior asks a subordinate to act, they will. Initiative is decidedly lacking and anything that requires a little more than usual (like dealing with a determined intelligent Palagi) gets pushed ‘anywhere but here’!
The recent appointment of a new Police Commissioner (Egon Keil2) supposedly to sort out the troubles is held up as hope for change but my experiences plus the combined wisdom of a Commission of Inquiry into the Police that found widespread failures in basic integrity lead me to believe that change for the better will be a long time coming, if ever.
The nature of corruption within the Police stems back, like in other areas to the cultural influences – to using relationships for personal benefit. It is also normal to want to look good but not do the required work to get there naturally – thus the lies and cover-ups and promotions of family and friends above those who deserve it – on merit.
I asked a Matai from Satapuala once why he no longer had his bus service. His brother had the bus originally (a good business in Samoa) and he had inherited it when his brother went to Australia. He sold it when he almost got thrown into jail. Police were issuing tickets to him for overloading but not to overloaded buses from their own village. Upset at this prejudice he had taken matters into his own hands and punched one corrupt police officer.
He was arrested of course but the matters were resolved when the boy assistant on the bus got charged for the assault and spent time in jail instead of the Matai. That’s how things work here . . . a compromise so that everybody saves face. He sold the bus because he couldn’t trust himself not to ‘deck’ another corrupt cop, and made it his rule to never allow a police officer onto his land again.
Contempt for the Samoan Police in Samoa is widespread. There has been good reason for this going back many years.
Palagi need to understand that security is your own care in Samoa and that the default setting is that everything will get stolen eventually, that Police will act on your investigation and arrest and charge someone but only if it is an easy thing to do and for whatever reason, they have to.
While the justice system does work at times it is best viewed as a Samoan system for Samoans. Palagi certainly cannot expect Western-style justice in a country where the Samoan Police are . . . well, corrupt to the core.
I’ll leave the last word to a friend of mine who I had just told about an attempt to repossess a vehicle we had sold that payments weren’t forthcoming. Informed that I had asked the Police for help, he said simply and matter-of-factly, “A waste of time. They won’t do anything!”
He was right. They didn’t.
Corruption in Samoa - The BookBanning The Blogger
The Human Cost
Corruption in Samoa - Tuila'epa
Chapter 1. Contents
Chapter 2. Preface
Chapter 3. Introduction
Chapter 4. Prologue
Chapter 5. On the Nature of Corruption
Chapter 6. Political - Central Government
a) Samoa Tourism Authority
b) Samoa Land Corporation
c) Samoan Police
d) Ombudsman of Samoa
e) The Prime Minister
Chapter 7. Political - Local Government (Matai System)
Chapter 8. Religion
Chapter 9. NGOs
Chapter 10. Fourth Estate - Samoa Observer
Chapter 11. Individuals
Chapter 12. Exposing Samoan Corruption
Chapter 13. The Solution
Chapter 14. The Prime Minister Responds
Chapter 15. The Author
- Samoan Defamation & Corruption
- Blogger Banned from Samoa – Analysis
- The Human Cost of Samoan Pride
- Letters to Tuila’epa – Palemia.com
- Hating on Samoa
- Corruption in Samoa – What To Do
- Corruption in Samoa – PM’s Mistress
- Tuila’epa’s Assassination Complicity
- Corruption in Samoa – Investment Impact
ALL Samoa Files (back to 2009!):