Tonga Police ‘will determine’ next steps after suspended senior police officer flees to US

A suspended senior police officer who is currently under investigation has fled to the United States, Tongan Police have confirmed.

Pita Tahitu’a

Senior Police Officer Pita Tahitu‘a was recently suspended after complaints following alleged inappropriate workplace behaviours, Kaniva News has learnt.

Police previously said an internal investigation was being conducted by its Professional Standards Unit into Tahitu‘a’s “behaviour and into the circumstances where these behaviours have occurred”.

The news of his suspension and the complaints were leaked to the media last month with some reports on social media sharing his photo and identity.

Police Commissioner Shane McLennan publicly expressed his disappointment after he discovered Tahitu’a’s identity had been shared online.

Commissioner McLennan reminded the public the importance of preventing undue prejudice to a person before the prosecuting authority decided if they had to face prosecution.

“I was disappointed to learn that the suspended officer has been identified and ridiculed via social media posting,” McLennan said.

“I ask those posting and sharing such material to reconsider their actions. It would be most appropriate to remove the officer’s name and identifying details. Everyone is entitled to a course of natural justice.

“I can advise that the welfare of members affected by the alleged behaviour is also being attended to”.

Kaniva News contacted the Commissioner last week and told him we understood that Tahitu’a was the officer who had been suspended, but had left the country and was now in the United States.

In his response Mr. McLennan said: “Mr Tahitu’a has left Tonga and is currently believed to be visiting friends and relatives in the USA”.

We wanted to know why Mr Tahitu‘a was able to leave the country given that he was currently being under investigation.

“While he is on suspension from Tonga Police, there is no compulsion for him to remain in Tonga; he is free to travel wherever he wishes”, McLennan told Kaniva News.

“The investigation is still underway and the outcome of the investigation will determine further actions concerning Mr Tahitu‘a”.

Since Tahitu‘a fled the country while he was being investigated and his case is now a matter of public interest, we decided to identify him and publish his photo.

Tahitu‘a was in the news in November last year after he appeared in a streamed video arresting political activist Vilisoni Tauelangi, who had been charged with attempted murder.

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