The national media coverage of a recent homicide on St. John has apparently "ruffle the feathers" of V.I. Police Commissioner James McCall and has raised questions about the effectiveness of the VIPD.
Personally, I rate the overall performance of the VIPD as satisfactory and take this opportunity to applaud VI police officers for their dedication and commitment to fighting crimes in out territory. However, I believe that there is room for improvement in the VIPD. Rather than just criticizing the police, let's explore some viable solutions to solving our crime problems.
Mistrust of the VIPD is one hindrance to solving crimes in our territory. Unfortunately, often people are reluctant to report crimes to the police because they fear being place in jeopardy. Many people in our community do not trust the VIPD to keep information confidential. They do not have confidence in the VIPD'S ability to protect them from intimidation and other forms of retaliation for reporting a crime. Some citizens practice what is preached in this slogan: "See no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil." Moreover, in order to secure a conviction, it is important for witnesses to a crime to testify in court. Since many people are disinclined to cooperate with the police, it is probably difficult to get witnesses to appear in court.
The question, then, that should be answered is "How can the negative image of the VIPD be changed in order to restore trust and confidence to the Department?" My suggestion is that there should be an establishment of an active victim advocacy program and that the VIPD should launch a campaign to quash people's negative perception of our police. Please note, though, that I am not in support of the Department covering up the truth. I would like for the police to educate citizens on how they can avoid being victims of crimes, to encourage positive involvement in solving crimes, and to initiate more crime prevention programs. A local crime show similar to the TV show, "America's most wanted", might be effective in helping reduced the unsolved murder rate in our territory. Furthermore, the victim advocacy could work collaboratively with the police to pursue such an endeavor. A good name for this show could be "Virgin Islands' most wanted."
One way to increase the effectiveness of the VIPD is to implement an innovative recruitment/exchange police program. The idea of recruiting police from outside the territory was proposed by a gubernatorial candidate but was scorned by some people. It does not seem ridiculous to me. Exchanging some local police with experienced law enforcement officers without ties to the community could be an asset. Although nepotism and cronyism exist everywhere, the effects of these negative forces are more intensive in a relatively small population. How can the perception of corruption in the VIPD be reversed? Perhaps, my letter may inspire others to offer their thoughts on the subject.
It is hoped that my proposals are taken seriously; I am not merely expressing an opinion. I want to make positive changes in my community.
Verdel L. Petersen
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