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Police Department Takes a Beating at Community Meeting

July 11, 2007 — Deputy Police Chief Darren Foy and a panel of agency and department representatives got an earful Wednesday as numerous St. John residents spoke about their years of frustration with the V.I. Police Department.
"I don't think the police officers have our respect because they're not giving it back," Jane Washburn said.
The town hall meeting was organized by The Safety Zone, with a panel that included Foy; Safety Zone Director Shelley Williams; the Police Department's victim advocate, Leslie Webb; Assistant Attorney General Christine Thomas; and Robert Kunkel of Legal Services of the Virgin Islands.
About 20 people attended the meeting held at the Legislature building.
Several people spoke about situations they said police officers refuse to address. They include things a simple as an officer who was reluctant to take a report when a battery was stolen to non-responsiveness by the department when residents apprehended someone who had allegedly stolen a cash register.
"I don't think we can depend on the police department to solve any crimes," Patricia Varlack said.
Susie O'Leary described how the St. John community raised $50,000 to hire a private detective to find the man who murdered David Geiger and brutally beat his son, Nathan.
Officers talking on their cell phones while patrolling do not inspire confidence, Rosamund Dane said.
"Then I see them harass young women," she said.
Washburn was particularly annoyed about the police cars parked in the handicapped space at St. John's police station. Steve Crumrine asked how Foy was going to motivate his officers so they'll do actual police work rather than sit in their cars.
Foy admitted that there was a gap between the police department and the community, but vowed to address issues.
"I'm hearing a lot of the things I've been hearing before I took the job," he said.
There are some bad apples in the department, but that there are also some good cops, Foy said. He promised that officers would receive proper supervision as well as training. He also acknowledged that St. John used to be the dumping ground for officers who had problems elsewhere, but said that practice has ended.
A new 911 emergency telephone system is coming online, he said. It will end the problems that arise when St. John residents calling for help fail to let the 911 operator know they're on St. John.
If residents encounter an officer who won't respond, they should ask to speak to a supervisor and continue up the chain of command to him until they get satisfaction, Foy said.
Webb said that if people simply couldn't get satisfaction, they should call her at 643-0295.
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