The Police Department has a new commissioner, in the person of Elton Lewis of St. Croix. He has impressive credentials, the best of the last three commissioners. He has reached the rank of a commissioned officer in the V.I. National Guard; he attended the FBI Academy and is a former police chief. His tenure in the Police Department was generally positive. But to me his most qualifying credits are his military training and FBI training. Most of the members on the Police force and those coming on lack military experience and discipline.
Lack of discipline has been one of the weaknesses in the Police Department, from top to bottom. It has been, and is, the main factor for the poor morale among the rank-and-file within the department. With the military experience that Commissioner Lewis brings to the department we should begin to see some positive changes as it relates to discipline and pride in the department.
One very telling indicator that the department has pride in itself, and also in the individual members, is their physical appearance. Many of us in the public, both residents and visitors, have wondered about the attire of many of the officers, both males and females. Is there no pride in our elected and appointed leaders that it does not bother them to see the lack of uniformity of the Police Department, and that lack of pride in appearance is filtering to other peace officers in the government service?
That is another evidence of the growing culture of mediocrity as promoted by our "leaders". Is there no one else that believes we can do better? Is this the best we can do? We admire order and harmony in other cultures, in other communities, but we are incapable of promoting those qualities here at home.
We of the V.I. Retired Police Organization (VIRPO) stand ready to work with the current Police commissioner to promote better discipline and improve morale in the department. We will remain vigilant to expose what we perceive to be detrimental to the Police Department and the law enforcement system in our territory.
One factor that we believe also impacts the morale of the rank-and-file is the appointment of low-ranking officers to positions that are better served by senior or ranking officers. We believe if a ranking officer is not performing to the level required by the rank he holds, that officer should be demoted after the proper documentation of the evidence of neglect and/or incompetence and promote another officer who we believe has a proven record of satisfactory to outstanding performance. We should not promote individuals based on political expediency nor favoritism; all promotions should be based on performance, discipline and merit.
The moral character of the individual also impact on his or her ability to lead, and that factor should be considered in promotion — not only test scores that many times are not an accurate measure of the individual's ability to perform the task.
Another missing element is training: continuous training for all ranks and positions in the department. There should be upward mobility and the probability of downward mobility as well. We should promote excellence in service on all levels. But if our elected representatives and the appointed representatives are not committed to excellence themselves we are in a losing battle. It behooves us, the people, the electorate, to do a better job selecting our candidates if we truly believe we deserve better. Therefore, let us begin now to search for replacement for those who have proven unworthy of our trust or have failed to perform to our expectation. The power belongs to the people, us, all citizens.
Sen. Lorraine Berry, chairperson of the Committee on Public Safety, the Judiciary, Homeland Security and Justice, is in quite a position of influence and potential power. She conducted a hearing recently where Police Commissioner Lewis was invited to testify. What impressed me most about Sen. Berry's invitation to the commissioner is the fact she gave him a questionnaire to be prepared for the hearing. How disappointed I was, even though I did not follow the whole hearing, what I heard indicated to me that the Commissioner was not prepared to answer the questionnaire specifically. One of the most relevant questions dealing with the basic underlying problem within the Police Department is the morale of the personnel. I did not hear nor read where Commissioner Lewis answered that question directly. And that is the crux of the problem within the Police rank-and-file. Did Sen. Berry stress that issue? To the best of my perception she did not, she accepted the commissioner's excuses.
So what was expected to be a revealing hearing on the problems and solutions for the Police Department turned out to be another one of those committee hearings that accomplished nothing, only gave senators another opportunity to grandstand and show their inability to grasp the problems facing this government, If they cannot grasp the problems they certainly cannot devise solutions so our government remain in the same state of disrepair.
VIRPO, V.I. Retired Police Organization, with more than 100 years of experience collectively, is very concerned about the state of law enforcement in the community and the state of the Police Department in particular. We are ready to work toward solutions with other groups that refuse to accept lame excuses from these public servants, these elected representatives, who have failed us and appear not to have a clue of what to do or where we are heading, as a community.
Let us be responsible citizens and exercise our rights and responsibilities in controlling our government. Democracy requires vigilance, diligence and the unity of the governed to succeed and survive. Let us join with those of like values and aspirations and work for a better Virgin Islands of which we all can be proud. We are all Virgin Islanders because we are here by choice not by chance. Let us be inspired by the words and spirit of Allah God and work together for a better, a more progressive harmonious Virgin Islands. We can do it.
V.I. Retired Police Organization
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