The U.S. Virgin Islands commissioned 17 federal law enforcement officers as Virgin Islands Peace Officers after the officers completed an orientation on Virgin Islands history and culture.
The ceremony took place Monday at Government House on St. Croix.
Commissions were awarded to six agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency, five from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and six from Homeland Security Investigations.
“This is our largest class of federal officers who have received V.I. Peace Officer status, which is as large as some of the local police academy classes,” Attorney General Claude Earl Walker said. “We now have 26 officers in total since we started. This is one of the most significant law enforcement initiatives in recent history, and as time goes by, the people of the Virgin Islands will see the benefits of this undertaking.”
The training was planned by Walker in conjunction with acting U.S. Attorney Joycelyn Hewlett and VIPD Commissioner Delroy Richards. Hewlett and Richards were present at the orientation ceremony. Chief Deputy Attorney General Joseph Potent stood in for Walker, who was attending a news conference with Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp.
During the ceremony, Dr. Ola see Davis, a Virgin Islands historian and cultural icon, highlighted significant aspects of St. Croix’s history from a military perspective.
At the end of the orientation, Richards and Potent presented each federal officer with a commission. Commissioner Richards said he believes the changes are for the betterment of the islands.
“There are folks who don’t like the interventions of the federal agencies, but I welcome anybody in that’s involved in law enforcement to these islands because it helps me,” Richards said. “It’s not my fight alone; it’s our fight.”
Hewlett also gave brief remarks.
“I just want to thank the commissioner, the Attorney General’s office and the agents for showing up today and finally getting this done,” she said. “I think that when we work together, there’s strength in co-operation, so I think that we can do more through co-operation.”
A federal law enforcement officer who is granted a commission is recognized and authorized to act as a Virgin Islands Peace Officer to enforce local laws in the Virgin Islands, including the power to make arrests for violation of Virgin Islands laws. Any federal law enforcement officer granted a commission may use any reasonable force the officer reasonably believes to be necessary to defend himself, or another person, from bodily harm, while making a lawful arrest.
In addition, reasonable force may also be used, when necessary, to arrest any felon fleeing from justice, when the officer reasonably believes either that the fleeing felon poses a threat of death or serious physical harm to the officer or others, or that the fleeing felon has committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened infliction of serious physical harm to another person.
Nine federal law enforcement officers were commissioned as peace officers during a similar exercise conducted April 10 on St. Thomas.