July 10, 2001 — Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen told V.I. police officials Monday that she will try to find $5 million to bolster the force.
Hansen, chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, called Mondays meeting to find out what the department needs most in order to fight crime. For Police Commissioner Franz Christian, the answer was easy: bodies.
To reach a full complement of officers, the department needs an additional 30 to bolster the 215 now on St. Croix and 20 more in the St. Thomas-St. John district to supplement the 232 now on the force, Christian said. With Gov. Charles Turnbulls recent approval of a plan to pay salary step increases owed to government workers, plus benefits and training, the price tag comes to approximately $43,000 per officer, or $2.1 million.
Additionally, the department needs 150 new vehicles, at about $3.7 million, and new radios for officers, at a cost of about $300,000, Christian said.
Hansen asked the police officials what they could do without but still meet their staffing and equipment needs. Christian said costs could be cut by supplying less equipment to individual officers. That would bring the cost per officer to about $39,000, or about $1.95 million for the 50 needed officers.
V.I. Police Chief Jose Garcia said the force could get by with 95 new vehicles. At about $23,500 per vehicle, that would cost about $2.2 million.
Combined with the cost for the radios and an undetermined amount for a staff psychologist, the total immediate need for the department is about $4.4 million. Hansen told the police officials that she may be able to tell them if she can locate the needed funds by Wednesday, when her committee goes over the $40 million-plus appropriations bill recently submitted by Turnbull.