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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, August 15, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesFederal Law Enforcement Personnel Need Peace Officer Status

Federal Law Enforcement Personnel Need Peace Officer Status

I know that I am not the only Virgin Islander who is outraged by the level of violent crime in our islands and who is distressed by the commiserating with friends, families and co-workers as we continue to bury our young men and women too often and too soon.

I also know that all of us want the police and our elected officials to do something to reduce the risks that all of us face, especially our children, when what should be a minor disagreement turns into a violent encounter or they just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

But I also hope that there are many of us who are willing to ask for help from any agency which has the capacity to provide it.

All of the foregoing is prelude to my saying that I fully support the effort represented by the bill recently tabled in the 29th Legislature, Bill # 29-0078, to grant the same peace officer status given to employees of the V.I. Departments of Health and Justice to federal law enforcement personnel.

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This obviously should not be the only effort. As a person who has long advocated that preventive efforts take priority, I still strongly maintain that position and have communicated that to Sen. Sammuel Sanes, who chairs the Committee on Public Safety, Homeland Security and Justice.

I continue to work with like-minded colleagues in Congress to provide federal support for programs that save and redirect our children rather than lock them up and throw away the key.

Further, I am working with others in the Virgin Islands and on the U.S. mainland on other methodologies that would help to limit the entry of guns, drugs and other contraband into the territory. In that regard, I have requested that the U.S. Postal Service keep a postal inspector in the territory, a position which is considered invaluable to both local and federal law enforcement.

I will also continue to do everything in my power to prevent the defunding of the territory’s National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) system, a vital Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms program which gives participating local law enforcement agencies the ability to link gun crimes by comparing markings on bullet casings collected from crimes scenes with other images stored in a nationwide database.

It is important to note that nothing in the bill allows the relevant federal law enforcement officers to use excessive force or to use their status in any illegal or inappropriate way.

Further, they are to operate under the Commissioner of Police or the Attorney General as described in the bill. This is in keeping with what many states have in place, and in my mind, is somewhat short of applying the Supremacy clause, the constitutional principle which says that federal law is superior to state or territorial law.

I know that this is not popular in some circles, but I was not elected to only do or support positions that are “popular,” but to do and support what is in the best interests of my constituents.

While it may still be subject to some minor amendments, we need all the help we can get and I feel that this measure is in all of our best interests.

The sooner bill # 29-0078 is passed the better.

Donna M. Christensen
V.I. Delegate to Congress

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