I personally congratulated Commissioner Elton Lewis of the V.I. Police Department on his responses to Sen. Lorraine Berry, chairperson of the 25th Legislature Committee on Public Safety, the Judiciary, Homeland Security and Justice.
Sen. Berry kept insisting that he, the commissioner, extend some olive branch to the union heads who have been castigating him. The commissioner replied to Sen. Berry more than once, when she kept insisting that he extend the olive branch to the rebellious union heads, particularly on St. Thomas, that the unions heads — like its members — are sworn police officers. Police officers are sworn to uphold the law and serve the community.
Let me say from the start, I have had my differences with the commissioner when we worked together in VIPD in his other capacities. But I entertained high hopes when he was appointed commissioner that his preparation both as a police officer and as an officer in the National Guard would contribute to his being able to successfully administer the VIPD. Commissioner Lewis is not new to the VIPD and its problems. I am also aware that academic proficiency or even a wealth of experience does not always translates into efficiency, because a very fundamental factor comes into play: the personality of the individual, his character. If that individual has had difficulty leading in his former capacities, that should be a telltale sign that he may continue to have difficulty leading, if he did not improve leadership skills or style.
But that being as it is, Commissioner Lewis was appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate, and should receive all the support he needs to be successful in his assignment. The Legislature has the greatest responsibility in providing the necessary support to the commissioner, by providing the funds needed to meet the needs of VIPD to efficiently fulfill its mission. The Senate has the oversight responsibility to monitor the department to ensure that it is carrying out its statutory mandate.
Political demagoguery and unions of government employees have contributed in no small measure to the financial crisis of our government. But again, in a democratic system of government the people elect their representatives in government, the people get whom they elect, normally. Whether the people deserve whom they elect is another question. For years the politicians have been flirting with and giving into the demands of union heads. The politicians, the demagogues have practically destroyed the merit system, or rendered it inoperable. That is the main reason there is such disparity in the pay system of the government. We encourage our children to obtain a higher education, to become professional; but when they return home they are put to work under unqualified people in government who only seek to protect their own position. VIPD has a morale problem because of poor or no leadership. Professionalism is no longer encouraged.
If the Senate is serious, if the Senators are honestly interested in improving our government, they would restore and strengthen the government employees merit system. Is that too much of a tall order for the Senate? Demagoguery is much easier and it stimulates the ego of the politicians. The senior Senator from the district of St. Thomas who I have admired for her past performances, knows that unions are not suppose to make administrative decisions nor are they suppose to participate in the administrative decision process. Policy decisions are the exclusive prerogative of management. The unions are not partners of the government; they are suppose promote the welfare of their members. It is my view that government employees' union should not be allowed to negotiate salaries. Salaries of government employees are the exclusive responsibility of the Legislature, which is supposed to control the purse strings of the government. There should be a universal pay scale based on merit for all government employees.
All government employees should be governed by a common personnel merit system that is equitable and fair to all. Government employees' union should promote better working conditions and professionalism of its members. When the unions feel that raises are justified they should work with the Legislature to make changes in the salary scale of the personnel merit system and not negotiate with different government entities for salary raises.
When are the politicians going to assume the proper leadership posture and be responsible and make the necessary reform of our territorial government? Unless a comprehensive reform is made we will continue to spin our wheels. What a big difference between a statesman, a statesperson and a common politician. The power is in the hands of the people; exercise it or lose it, that is what democracy is all about, people power. We must participate, make demands and intelligently strategize to elect proper representatives, those with intelligence, courage and most of all integrity.
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