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$1.9 MILLION SOUGHT TO REHIRE RETIRED COPS

Sept. 7, 2001 – Gov. Charles W. Turnbull said Friday he wants to put $1.9 million into hiring retired police personnel as a stop-gap measure to put more officers on the streets.
The plan to beef up the police force is in response to a spate of shootings, armed robberies and attacks on police and peace officers in recent months, Turnbull said at a press conference at Government House on St. Thomas. He said hiring the retired officers would be an interim measure until two new classes of officer candidates can be trained to join the police force.
The governor said the plan is to hire up to 60 retired police officers in the next few weeks and put them back to work over the next year.
He said he would work with legislators to change a law that now specifies that police officers can work no more than 70 days past their retirement without affecting their retirement annuities. The governor said he wants to extend the time, allowing officers to continue working on the police force for up to a year.
The increased number of officers under the plan will allow for more patrols and sweeps of high-crime areas, as well as contributing to ongoing investigations of violent crimes, he said.
"We will not rest until we win this war against the criminal element," Turnbull said. "A small band of criminals, hoodlum-type culprits, will not make this society live in terror."
In recent months, the territory has seen a rash of violent crimes, including the fatal shooting last month of Kaunda Bryan, the son of Sen. Adelbert Bryan.
Three officers have been wounded on St. Thomas in the last three months: Lennox Lettsome, an off-duty officer who was shot at the Contant Car Wash; Ira Christopher, a Finance Department officer who was struck when he was robbed as he walked to the Chase Manhattan bank in Sugar Estate to deposit a bag of property tax collections; and off-duty police officer Kent Hodge, who was hit in the hand when he reportedly was caught in a crossfire in Savan earlier this week.
On St. Croix, police Cpl. Wendell Williams has been missing since June, and his vehicle was found burned out.
The move to put more officers on the streets comes as government officials also are taking other actions to address rampant crime in the territory.
Legislators are pushing for re-passage of a bill to toughen sentences for firearms violations — and agreed to make changes in a property forfeiture provision after Turnbull vetoed it recently. The Golden Grove prison on St. Croix was expanded last year. And V.I. Justice Department officials are working with federal agents and prosecutors in the V.I. Exile Program, which requires that persons convicted of crimes involving illegal weapons serve their terms in off-island prisons.
Police Commissioner Franz Christian said Friday that he expects many of the retired officers to rejoin the Investigations Unit, forensics teams and patrol units within the next few weeks. Their return will help address a severe shortage of manpower, he said.

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