Dec. 7, 2004 Top-level V.I. Police Department senior staff, captains and commanders gathered on St. Croix on Tuesday to attend a leadership seminar presented by visiting retired Army Maj. Gen. Leo J. Baxter. The seminar, held at the Patrick Sweeny headquarters pavilion, is part of the ongoing leadership development program initiated by Police Commissioner Elton Lewis. Members of community advocacy groups also attended.
Admitting "leadership is lacking," Lewis noted that several senior officers are ready to retire, which will create a "void" in the department. "We need to groom the younger officers to take command," Lewis said, urging officers to pass the torch and share the knowledge received at the meeting to their subordinates.
Baxter currently serves as the corporate vice president of Virginia-based Communications Technologies, Inc., (COMTek). He is also the founder and owner of Signal Mountain Associates, Inc., a nationwide defense-consulting firm. COMTek, a leading-edge telecommunications and information technology company, is owned and founded by Virgin Islander Joseph Fergus.
Baxter described himself as a less-than-average student who "barely made it" through five years of college. Following graduation he enrolled in the U.S. Army. During his 31 years of service, he rose through the ranks to become one of the Armys few two-star generals. He said the Army was a changing point in his life. "I out-worked every guy I was around," Baxter said, sharing the secret to his success. "Hard work is as important to leadership as anything else we do."
Baxter shared his personal opinion of leadership with the officers. He said anyone can become a leader over time, but you cannot be an effective leader if you are not an effective follower. "Aim high; go after things that will make a difference rather than seeking the path of mediocrity," he said. Baxter warned the officers to watch out for the pitfalls of power: "Use your authority properly with out misusing your power."
Lewis called the presentation "thought provoking," and said it was important that the message be taken back to the rank and file officers. "You never stop learning," he said.
The VIPD launched its leadership development program in September. The program aims to establish and implement a formal leadership strategy; establish a leadership model for the rank and file and improve the effectiveness of the department. Previous speakers included Malcolm Kirwan, UVI Research and Technology Park Executive Director; David Nissman, CEO, Bridge Capital; and former U.S. Attorney Andrew Capdeville.
Lewis said the ongoing police leadership training in addition to other initiatives, including revisiting rules and procedures, firearms and taser training as well as improving department standards are preparing the department for accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). Lewis said more access to federal funding and the opportunity for police exchange programs are some of the benefits of accreditation. The VIPD has never been accredited despite attempting to gain this status several times since 1980, Lewis said.
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