March 13, 2008 — The Chase Auditorium on the University of the Virgin Islands' St. Thomas campus was packed Thursday evening with community members eager and ready to join the territory's crime-fighting effort as participants in the Police Auxiliary program.
At least 50 individuals from all walks of life were in attendance at the orientation meeting on St. Thomas. At a similar meeting held on St. Croix Wednesday evening, the sign-up list boasted 44 individuals.
Top police officials said the high-turnouts show that the community at large is "frustrated" with the territory's high crime levels and is ready to do something positive to help turn the numbers around.
"What's been going on around here, none of us like it," Police recruiter Emmett Hansen III said to the crowd Thursday. "That's why you all are here. We're going to make it better. We're going to take this community and put it back to where it used to be."
Though the mood during the meeting was generally positive, other speakers stressed that the auxiliary program isn't going to be easy, with each member having to prepare themselves for 18 weeks at the police training academy. Auxiliary members also have to go through a thorough background check and interview process, according to Sgt. Kent Bellot, of VIPD's Internal Affairs Division.
According to Melvin Venzen, St. Thomas-Water Island deputy chief of police, participating in the program may even nudge some auxiliary members toward becoming full-time police officers — a sentiment and hope echoed by Police Commissioner James H. McCall.
"It is a great career," McCall said. "When I first became a police officer, I always felt that I could make a difference. That's the whole reason I went into law enforcement — to make a difference in my community, and I hope that's why all of you are here today."
McCall said that over the past few months, information provided by community members has helped police solve some major crimes.
"The community has been energized and engaged," he said. "This is just the next step in that process."
The V.I's police auxiliary program is similar to police auxiliaries in jurisdictions throughout the U.S. and other Caribbean islands, McCall said later. Participants will receive essentially the same training as police recruits, but do not take the police exam. They act under the supervision of regular police and work flexible part-time hours while earning a maximum $22,500 per year. They also have arresting power and will be issued full police uniforms.
Once participants have turned in their application forms, the vetting and selection processes will begin. Auxiliary members should be ready to start their training on April 1.
For more information on the program, contact Hansen 712-6003.
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