Students at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) majoring in Criminal Justice had the opportunity earlier this month to observe firsthand the inner workings of the local law enforcement system when 14 of them participated in the first field trip by College students to the Police Department’s headquarters in Fagatogo. ASCC Criminal Justice instructor Utumoe Alefosio arranged the visit primarily for students in his Juvenile Delinquency (CJ190) class, but also opened the trip to any other Criminal Justice majors.
“In CJ190 we emphasize the process of the juvenile and Criminal Justice system and its core components, namely the Police, Courts, and Corrections; and the interrelationships between each component,” explained Alefosio. “With many of our students considering a career in the justice system, seeing how our local police department operates allowed the students to bridge the divide between theory and practical application.” Alefosio set up the visit through discussions with Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety (DPS), HTC Le’i Sonny Thompson, with subsequent approval from the ASCC Dean of Academic Affairs and President
The ASCC students came prepared with the knowledge that the police initiate the first phase of the justice process, where a suspect enters into the system through investigation and arrest. At the Fagatogo police station, the students saw up close how this process functions. They first engaged in a discussion with Police Captain Pulefano Tu’ufuli and other officers on topics such as the procedure of handling drugs and related crimes, legal aspects of search and seizure, individual rights, juvenile delinquency, and the role police perform in the process of investigation. Next, Evidence Custodian Zenobia Jennings explained how physical evidence is handled, and the importance of proving the admissibility of that evidence in the court. Finally, experts David Bird and Penikila Solomona discussed with the students the uniqueness of fingerprints to each person, and why these provide a very reliable way to identify someone.
“Most of the students had never been to the police station before,” said Alefosio, “and they expressed thanks for both the field trip and for the officers' work. The students agreed that the police play a very challenging role, and this even inspired one student to tell me how one day he hopes to become a police officer.” Alefosio appreciated that the students asked many questions and enjoyed a good interaction with the police officers. “More than one student said that the officers’ courtesy and professionalism really impressed them,” he recalled, “and in turn, the officers enjoyed the chance to share their knowledge. They encouraged the students to work hard to achieve their career goals.”
Alefosio gave credit to the Commissioner of Public Safety and the ASCC administration for making the field trip possible, and expressed his hopes for a continued collaboration between the College and the DPS. For more information on Criminal Justice classes at ASCC, visit the College’s website at www.amsamoa.edu.