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Washington state police chief takes time to learn about Samoan culture

PULLMAN, Washington — Police officers are taught that someone who is acting timid might be hiding something.

But people raised in American Samoa behaving that way are usually showing respect for authority, said Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins, who just returned from a five-day trip to the Pacific island.

"They are less likely to challenge authority, compared to students from the states," Jenkins said. "For officers to know that, I think, will help them in their interactions with them, and try to create an atmosphere for them, so they feel comfortable communicating. I would encourage them to create a more open dialogue."

WSU has 24,900 students throughout the state and 96 are Samoan, according to 2016 figures.

Four students from the Pacific island are on scholarship to play football this school year.

Jenkins' trip to Samoa was organized by WSU and included WSU President Kirk Schulz and Vice President of Student Affairs Mary Jo Gonzales, who declined to comment for this story. Jack Thompson, a WSU quarterback from the 1970s, who was raised in Samoa, was also on the trip.

It followed the fall semester of 2016, when four Samoan football players were arrested on Pullman's College Hill after various incidents. The WSU Student Conduct Board came under fire from parents and politicians who claimed the board displayed ethnic bias.

Of those four players charged, only one - linebacker Logan Tago - was found guilty of committing a crime. Tago pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Jenkins, whose department was accused of singling out WSU football players a year ago by WSU head football coach Mike Leach, said he will interact with Samoan students a little differently after visiting the island.

"I think it's going to give me the ability to have a better connection with Samoan students," Jenkins said. "Not just athletes, but all the Samoan students; by understanding their culture and going there to learn, that helps give me some credibility."

Read more at Bonner County Daily Bee