Let's face it, the VIPD has problems! "Commissioner Lewis Says 'Vexing Problems' Remain for VIPD." What is so funny though, they continue to engage in the problem. This is a training issue. This engagement continues, however, to damage the fabric of the VIPD and splinter the community more. This is an awakening. When will it all stop? The VIPD leadership has a mammoth undertaking before them. This is not an easy task. But they should continue to identify and get rid of bad cops, aggressively investigate homicides, especially unsolved homicides, and other violent crimes, and have a better working relationship with the community. This will help build community support and partnerships.
In a recent article dated Tuesday, March 21, 2006, "Commissioner Lewis Says ' Vexing Problems' Remain for VIPD." During a press conference, Police Commissioner Elton Lewis and Internal Affairs Director Ray Martinez answered a wide range of questions about the conditions of the Virgin Islands Police Department. Based on the answers, there are no doubts; the VIPD is in big trouble. But they will not readily admit it!
One of the "Vexing Problems" Commissioner Lewis discussed is the unsolved homicides. Lewis said, "If witnesses don't come forward, they will remain unsolved. If we don't get material evidence, they will remain unsolved." This statement concerns me. Maybe, I am not reading it right? Will the VIPD do anything to solve the unsolved homicides? The police are responsible for protecting citizens and upholding the law. That protection includes investigating homicides and other violent crimes. The citizens are not coming forward for obvious reasons. First, they are scared, and second, they don't seem to trust the police? The VIPD should help to bridge those barriers. This will be a "Win – Win" for everyone.
Here is my two-cents worth; maybe, this may help the VIPD with the unsolved homicide problem. Scientific advances in analyzing DNA and trace evidence, coupled with the expansion of National Crime Database can assists detectives with cold cases. But I suspect that most of your killers are still in the territory? When we look at the staggering number of unsolved homicide cases, I think we have to recognize we're not just talking about a statistic; it's not just a case or a file we're talking about, but a story of hurt and loss. Homicides, especially unsolved homicides, creates long lasting pain, for the families and love ones of homicide victims.
It is a known fact that most murder suspects are repeat offenders, and 9 out of 10 have at least one previous arrest for a violent offense. A sizeable number of murders are career criminals, who will likely commit additional crimes – including, perhaps, additional homicides – if they are not caught. So, solving homicides should always be considered a top priority, for citizens to feel safe and secure in any community. The VIPD must be more responsive to citizens in the territory. They should target career criminals and habitual offenders. They should put them on notice that their behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. The VIPD should make it their business to find out where they frequent and target those areas. This will send a clear message!
The VIPD should establish a Violent Crime Branch headed by an experience investigative police commander. The Violent Crime Branch should investigate homicides, offenses where the probability of death is high, serial rapes, pattern robberies, and other major crimes occurring anywhere in the territory. The Violent Crimes Branch should also include a Family Liaison Unit, whose mission will be to ensure consistent and compassionate follow-up with the survivors of homicides victims, as well as other victims of violent crimes. Centralized command and control of homicides and other major crime investigations will ensure greater consistency and enhance accountability in individual investigations.
The VIPD should form a Community Relations/Crime Prevention Unit. This unit can bridge the gap between the police and the community. Under the Community Relations/Crime Prevention Unit, the police can start a Citizens Police Academy and establish a Neighborhood Watch Program. The Citizens Police Academy will allow citizens an opportunity to see first hand, how the police work, why they do what they do, the different laws, and how to protect themselves.
Finally, Commissioner Lewis announced that he department was hiring three new top administrators – a chief financial officer, a public relations officer and an assistant commissioner. Personally, I don't think he needs all three of them. I can see a possible need for the chief financial officer? The other two positions can come from the rank? He said "These are bright, new energetic people. Where are these new energetic people coming from? Were the jobs posted? And where? I would have loved to have had an opportunity to apply for at least two of the positions. Can you guess which ones? Maybe next time? How were they picked and who selected them? Are any of them coming from within the ranks? I hope so, this would be a boost to morale.
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