Courage Under Fire
When Inspector Vitale Lafaele was appointed to the role of area commander Counties Manukau South he was the first Samoan to gain the command of an area in New Zealand and the first Polynesian to reach the top level in any of Auckland’s three metropolitan police districts. Vitale is also the only Polynesian to command the Armed Offenders Squad, Special Tactics Group Anti-Terrorist Squad and Dignitary VIP Protection Squad in the NZ Police.
Vitale was born in Apia Samoa and his family moved to Auckland when he was 2 and settled in Grey Lynn.
After finishing school at St Pauls College in Ponsonby he held a number of jobs before enlisting in the Army and passing the gruelling SAS selection course straight out of civilian street without any prior military training. Over 300 applicants applied and 4 made it through Vitale being one of them. He served as a solder in the NZ Special Air Service at 22 and joined the Police at 24 remaining in the SAS Territorial Force until he was 30.
He began his policing career in 1985 rising through the ranks serving as an experienced senior investigator and manager in the CIB for 15 years.
Vitale made Inspector in 2005 and was given command of the Special Tactics Group and Armed Offenders Squad. Under his command, both the Armed Offenders Squad and Special Tactics Group deployed in some of the most nationally significant incidents in recent times such as the Napier siege, and the highly publicised New Lynn hostage rescue the only explosive entry in NZ Police history.
Vitale is one of only a handful of NZ Police officers to hold qualifications in tactical emergency command under the Australia New Zealand Counter Terrorism Committee (ANZCTC), the highest tactical command qualification in Australasia. He deployed overseas and served as a tactical commander with the Victoria Police at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006.
Vitale spent time in Wellington at Police National Headquarters as the Commissioners Staff Executive officer travelling and providing operational expertise to the Commissioner during both the Pike River Mining and Christchurch Earthquake tragedies. He also served at Parliament as the Police Private Secretary to the Minister of Police the Hon Judith Collins in 2011.
Vitale has a fascinating story to tell from the early days as a pacific youth growing up in Grey Lynn to following his dreams of one day joining the Army and Police. Vitale exceeded his own expectations serving in the elite SAS and commanding the NZ Police Armed Offenders Squad and Special Tactics Group. A rare insight into his training, decision making and mental toughness when charged with the responsibility of making the right decisions under extreme circumstances to save people’s lives