Police Minister Sala Fata Pinati is reserving comments on a $1 million tala civil action against the Ministry filed by Suitupe Misa, the man police arrested at gunpoint at the Fugalei market 18 August 2015.
The lawsuit claim was not only on the alleged unlawful arrest, but the manner in which the police shamed the plaintiff in and the impact on his family.
“I am fully aware of the incident,” says Sala.
“But since the matter is now in court, it would be premature for me to make any public comments.
“However, I urge all parties to concern to let the justice system takes it course.”
The plaintiff made headlines last year because of the way police raided his stall at the Fugalei market and arrested him. He later lodged a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman.
Described in the Ombudsman’s 46 page reports as “something out of a Hollywood movie” the police armed with guns rushed in the market, stepped on vendor’s goods while one of the police officers pointed a gun at Misa’s head, and another barking out orders in front of a shocked and distressed multitude of people at the Fugalei marketplace.
The report also revealed the Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keils’ “lack of understanding of the law” and the police officers failure in conducting a proper investigation before the unlawful arrest.
Misa was taken to the police office in Apia but was never charged, and was later released.
The market incident was described as a “watershed moment in the history of Samoa – it was the day police used firearms in a public place to carry out a pre-planned arrest of an individual for the very first time.”
The Ombudsman investigation proved that Misa had “committed no crime and the arrest was carried out based on insubstantial and second-hand evidence, raising serious questions over the actions of the Commissioner of Police.”
The report also stated that the incident was nothing more than a “sorry affair that highlighted a dangerous trend towards greater use of firearms by the Police, a tendency towards an American style of policing.”
The report also stated the authority given to the Minister to approve police to be armed, should be revoked and that certain provisions of the Police Powers Act should be reviewed.
The Ombudsman’s report also recommended that several articles in the Police Power Act should be reviewed.
It was also recommended that 2 of the police officers involved in the raid be charged with perjury.
The Court has yet to set a date for the hearing.