May 24, 2004 – In the fourth in an ongoing series of hearings on Sen. Lorraine Berry's proposed Public Safety, Judiciary, Homeland Security and Justice Omnibus Act of 2004, members of the committee of the same name heard Attorney General Iver Stridiron's recommendations concerning the 222-page bill on Monday.
Instead of the three police civilian review boards proposed for St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John, Stridiron told the committee, there should be one overall board. Police Department officials and union leaders were adamant in earlier hearings that there should be no such board at all.
Stridiron expressed approval for the concept of civilian review but said "a single board is more appropriate for our small territory." He recommended the board comprise three members from each island who have resided in the territory for at least three consecutive years; three members appointed by the Legislature; three appointed by the governor; two named by the V.I. Bar Association president; and one chosen by "the Chamber of Commerce president," according to a release from the Legislature. The release did not specify the St. Thomas-St. John or the St. Croix Chamber.
Berry said she was pleased with Stridiron's "tweaking" of her legislation. "I think having one review commission is an excellent idea," she said, noting it would save the government money.
Stridiron also submitted amendments to the legislation from Gov. Charles W. Turnbull to:
– Create a DNA database and bank.
– Create anti-litter laws.
– Clarify juvenile transfer status.
– Create a designer-drug provision.
– Craft legislation providing for V.I. Justice Department cases to be prosecuted in the name of the people of the Virgin Islands, rather than the government of the Virgin Islands.
In responding to Berry about a change in the name of the V.I. Narcotics Strike Force, Stridiron said the governor's drug policy adviser wants a complete overhaul of the agency. "He wants to reformat the agency and hire the personnel to staff it, himself," Stridiron said.
Michael Kerr, executive director of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, testified on the Uniform Interstate Enforcement of Domestic Violence Act, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act and the Uniform Trade Secrets Act.
The first two acts are new to the Virgin Islands, Kerr said, while the latter two are updates to the V.I. Code. He said the Uniform Interstate Enforcement of Domestic Violence Protection Orders Act is an important step toward improving enforcement. "A uniform act will make enforcement more efficient and certain," he said.
However, Kerr told the senators that the act does not attempt to solve all the problems of domestic violence.
Berry said the committee's next hearing on the omnibus bill will take place on St. John. It's set for 10 a.m. June 3 in the Legislative Conference Room in Cruz Bay.
Committee members present on Monday were Sens. Berry,Carlton Dowe,Almando "Rocky" Liburd and Ronald Russell. Three other members, Sens. Emmett Hansen II, David Jones and Shawn-Michael Malone were not present. Also present was Sen. Louis Hill.
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