Tetava says the Cook Islands Police Service is being unfairly targeted for not doing enough, despite the positive results achieved in clearing burglary cases recently, and the continued dedication of officers in pursuing investigations into the three major fires which have hit the island since May 14.
The commissioner was responding to a story in Wednesday’s CINews in which victims of crime raised concerns about the slow response by police to complaints.
The story also quoted Ports Authority chief executive Bim Nooroa Tou, who claimed police had failed to respond adequately to an incident last month where port security officers chased off a person they suspected was involved in a suspected arson/burglary attempt.
Tou said while the incident had been reported to police on the night, no-one had arrived to take statements from the security officers.
However, Tetava said Tou’s complaint had actually been thoroughly investigated by a CIB team.
“Ports Authority security officers did not see the person complained about attempting to commit arson or any other crime.
No other evidence was recovered from the scene or other witnesses to warrant the arrest and charging of this person.”
The Commissioner says Tou asked police to press charges after officers had already interviewed Tou’s staff and the person he had complained about. That person had not been in a restricted area, but a place accessible to any members of the public. “Contrary to what Tou believes, this person or anyone else cannot be charged with attempted arson or burglary or any offence without evidence to substantiate such a charge in a court of law.”
Tetava said forensic and other evidence was crucial and the update provided to Tou by the investigation team had apparently been ignored.
“This team is prepared to again brief Tou and the Ports Authority on the process in relation to criminal investigations.”
"I would like to assure members of the public that we do take every complaint of this nature seriously and we do investigate these to the best of our ability," says Tetava.
The commissioner says that in regard to matters concerning juveniles involved in various incidents, the police are facing constant pressures as a result of failures in family supervision.
“Breaches of curfews occur frequently and juveniles roam freely without being confined to homes.
The case of damage being caused at Punanga Nui recently has resulted in the arrest and charging of three young females. Tetava says police response time has to be considered in the context of levels of seriousness and the mobilisation of teams.
“Police response to complaints is prioritised on their seriousness. Life-threatening cases take precedent over other cases.
"We do have a priority dispatch procedure when mobilising our teams. If we are slow in
responding, it could be because our teams on duty were dispatched to address other more pressing matters.”
Tetava says the plea from the Police Service is for cooperation and help - not accusations and constant criticism.
“Help with information from the community is vital to police work.
"So if you have heard or seen something which might help with this investigation or others, please come and see us, for the information that you may have, may just be what we need to put the case together and deal with the person(s) responsible."