9 Dec 2013

American Samoa police commissioner says move to arm officers won't be rushed

6:24 pm on 9 December 2013

The police commissioner of American Samoa says a move to arm police officers will not be rushed, despite the arrival of the first shipment of handguns.

The Department of Public Safety has received 24 Glock-17s, which only a select group of officers will have access to after extensive training and psychological testing.

The proposal follows the fatal shooting of a police officer outside the High Court in 2010, which contributed to calls to arm officers.

William Haleck told Amelia Langford he is taking a slow approach to introducing arms.

WILLIAM HALECK: I anticipate this programme to start some time in the middle of next year because there's a lot of preparation that goes behind this - training exercises. We're going to first pursue the non-lethal training with the use of the baton, pepper spray and then the taser and then the last training will be with the firearms. But before anybody is issued any firearms they will have to undergo psychological testing. And hopefully our officers are able to pass that. And not only the psychological testing, that actually qualifies them to do the actual firearms training where they'll actually handle the weapon and pass a firearms training course to be able to carry these weapons. We're just not going to get these guns and start handing them out. We want to make certain that all the officers are psychologically fit and also physically trained with the weapons so that there will be no issues surrounding anything once they are armed and ready to do their job in the performance of their duties. It's just one of these things. Unlike other areas in the country, we are a US territory and all police officers carry weapons for their own safety. It's part of their equipment and assignment.

AMELIA LANGFORD: Was it sparked by the shooting in 2010, this idea?

WH: Yeah, well, that's one of the contributing factors. If somebody asked me three or four years ago, if a police officer was going to be shot point-blank in front of our courthouse, I should say 'No way'. But given the circumstances of how the world is today and progress all of these other elements have come into the territory, as well, good and bad. So we need to protect ourselves because of that, and also protect the public.

AL: And is there any resistance in the community? What's been the reaction?

WH: Well, the authority is given to me to do this and the governor has approved it. There is some resistance. But the public are not the ones that are facing this danger. Every day our officers are responding to the unknown. You would not want to send one of your officers into harm's way, especially if there is a gun involved. So they have to be trained and equipped to be able to handle any sort of situation.