VIPD Top Brass Worship in Community, Embark on Mission to Regain Trust

Dr. Celvin G. Walwyn, deputy commissioner of the VIPD

The V.I. Police Department is continuing the process of forming community partnerships and building trust as part of the department’s mission.

Dr. Celvin G. Walwyn, deputy commissioner of the VIPD and David A. Cannonier, deputy chief of police, fully decked in his VIPD uniform, worshipped with the congregation at the 9 a.m. service at the Nisky Moravian Church on Sunday, July 28. The intent and importance of their presence was clearly defined.

“The main factor of being here is to let the people of our community know that the police are still approachable,” Walwyn explained. “And if the top of the police department can meet with them, then the bottom of the police department is also approachable.” While the message was similar, the worship service was more personal for Deputy Chief Cannonier.

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“I think the community needs to know that the people who are in charge of their safety also have a personal side and a spiritual side,” Cannonier said. “All these people that you see here today: I grew up in this church, I was confirmed in this church, so it is like being back home.”

David A. Cannonier, deputy chief of police

He was accompanied by his mother at the service. Cannonier shared deeper reflections. “It is good to see that from a small boy to where I am at now these are all the people that had a part in my upbringing and part of my rearing. I think it is very significant that we come back and we show that the kids from the community can get to the highest levels of government or in leadership.”

The VIPD deputy commissioner made it clear that today’s attendance was not the first of its kind and certainly won’t be the last. “What I have been doing as the head of the police department and with the help of the people who work with me is at least once every other Sunday on St. Croix we have been visiting a different church; we have been attending church events or community events,” Walwyn said.

“Whether it is a church or not, it is to let the people know that the police are here and we do care, and we would like to regain the trust and confidence of the police and the police department and so we make ourselves accessible.”

As a result of this new community action plan, VIPD has noticed some customs of the community. “One of the things that we have learned since we have been here is most people don’t want to attend town hall meetings,” Walwyn observed. “Whether it is too late or whether it is too far, they choose not to attend.” Armed with this knowledge the shift to the churches was necessary.

“We are a very church going people as a culture and we go to church,” he said. “So, it is an improvement to relationships with the community for the police department to come to the churches to meet the people, listen to their concerns, and let them know that the police are here and approachable.”

“As part of the new vision of the department, it is to let the community know who we are and to get out there and this is a start. We will be more visible as you can see that I am in uniform,” Cannonier said. “They clearly know who I am and what I am representing, and so I think this is something that Dr. Walwyn and I are going to continue to do. We want to bring the community on board as a partnership with us.”

Deputy Police Commissioner Walwyn summed up Sunday’s worship attendance. “So, it is getting out that the police are out here to meet our community, out here to support our community but we do need the support of the community to get the job done,” Walwyn said. “The community can call if they have any concerns or to report anything.” He assured that, “we have a Crime Stoppers program where they don’t have to give their names. They can just make the calls anonymously and even if people want to speak to any of us who are in the upper level of police management, they can get our phone numbers and call us off the record.”

Anyone having any information or concerns, contact the Virgin Islands Police Department at 774-2211, Major Crime Unit at 714-9830 or the Criminal Investigation Bureau at 714-9807. People can also contact Crime Stoppers at 1(800) 222-8477 or 911.

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