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Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil, A Champion of Change – Person of the Year (part 2)

With the police rebellion crisis behind him, Fuiavaili’ili was able to steer the Samoa Police to calmer waters and shift his focus back to his goal of creating a living example of professional and accountable law enforcement in the Pacific.

Of the many things that set Fuiavaili’ili apart from his predecessors, it was his understanding of the importance of a well-developed brand which he successfully accomplished before his departure.

He knew that rebranding the Police would not only help to identify them but also go a long way in developing trust with the public and build positive associations.

Today the Police are walking with a new spring in their step and the internal changes to the organisation are now reflected in their new uniforms and standardised branding across all police assets.

“I believe in marketing and the power of branding. We changed the colour and design of the police cars, badges and police uniforms. We want the police to be visible and easily identifiable to the citizens,” he explained.

“We also made Police uniforms more comfortable and practical, transitioning away incrementally from the “ie faitaga” which will only be worn for ceremonial purposes.”

Before Fuiavaili’ili came along the police was a notorious place known as the last resort for the unemployed or school drop outs.

Many can recall instances in the Police Department’s history of suspects being beaten in custody, and irregularities in the review process particularly when it came to arresting citizens, as Fuiavaili’ili personally experienced at the beginning of his career.

A robust and transparent review process was put in place to ensure that citizens’ rights were not violated in the process of being arrested. Prison cells in Afega, Faleata and Poutasi were shut down and centralised to ensure citizens were not illegally detained.

“There’s only one place anyone can be locked up and that’s downtown headquarters. It doesn’t matter what hour of the day it is, the suspect is brought into the headquarters where there will always be an inspector on duty to review their file.”

“Arresting anybody is serious – we are taking away their freedom and that shouldn’t be taken lightly. I made sure that going forward no citizen is going to be illegally arrested or detained and complaints about police using excessive or unnecessary force will be dealt with immediately.”

Amongst the many initiatives, Fuiavaili’ili recalls some of the highlights for him included setting up the Professional Standards Unit to investigate police officers, installing GPS systems inside all police vehicles and enforcing mandatory defensive driving courses for all police officers before handling a vehicle.

Today police and prison officers have access to the internet at every police station in the country and with the instalment of CCTV at all police stations; staff are up to speed with the rest of the world and can carry out their work more efficiently.

Bringing about meaningful change requires a leader to look at a dilemma holistically which is how Fuiava approached the chronic issues of staff misconduct with bribery and stealing, often stemming from effects of employee debts.

“Employee debts is a risk management issue and leads to all sorts of scenarios like bribery and stealing. We were trying to mitigate this issue by bringing in people to talk about finances during police academy where cadets are right at the stage where they’re starting to make money.”

“Now police officers are getting a better wage, benefits and overtime so they feel valued in their jobs and hopefully with the financial literacy capacity building, they’ll be able to make smarter financial choices.”

Last month Fuiavaili’ili was honoured with a historic Champion of Change Award by Australian Council of Women and Policing, acknowledging his contribution to the advancement and empowerment of women in the Samoa Police Force.

Fuiavaili’ili promoted the first female to Deputy Commissioner and would later advance three more women to senior positions, thoroughly shattering the proverbial blue glass ceiling holding women back from being promoted to senior positions. In fact, he has promoted the most officers and professional staff in his tenure than any other Police Commissioner in Samoa’s history.

In Samoa, women in the police force are no longer being limited because of their gender demonstrated by the presence of trained female specialists on the Nafanua Police Boat as well as the Special Tactical Operation Unit (set up by Fuiavaili’ili).

“In the last two years, the number of female recruits has outnumbered that of male recruits because they are attracted to the work. They feel empowered, valued and respected. We have a couple of women police officers in the task force who are fully trained by US Special Forces to use and operate machine guns.”

“To be honest I didn’t promote them because of their gender – it’s because they are capable. I don’t want to take that away from them, they were chosen because of their training, experiences, work performance, education, and leadership skills.”

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to help women in the police force and have a personal hand in developing that part of the organisation, place them in those positions that they deserved to be in so they can build up the organisation and make Samoa safer.”

Years from now when people look back and analyse Fuiavaili’ili’s legacy and how he was able to get the buy-in from the hundreds of staff under his command to revolutionise the Police Department. They might find hidden in the details, a simple yet powerful mantra the former Commissioner lived by which was eventually adopted by the Executive Management Team as their motto.

More importantly these words held the key to the total transformation of the Samoa Police.

“I call them the Three D’s,” says Fuiava. “Do your job; you have to know your job, your limitations and capabilities. Document everything; sometimes the little things don’t seem important right away but they might six months down the line in court, and finally, Discipline; if you don’t have discipline, you can’t do the first two D’s. Discipline can mean showing up to work on time, taking care of your personal presentation, and being professional.”

“I always tell everyone to polish their gold. The police force is like gold, they just don’t know it yet. Right now their image has improved, we’re showing pride in our uniform and the pay is improved. ‘Polishing your gold’ means that they have to keep maintaining that by up-skilling, cleaning up, looking presentable, and never letting that gold go to waste again.”

Read the final instalment (Part 3) to find out what parting words of advice Fuiavaili’ili has for the new Police Commissioner HERE

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