The Government of the Virgin Islands filed a motion in Superior Court Wednesday seeking dismissal of what it called an unfounded lawsuit over the promotion of police personnel in both island districts.
The suit, filed in November by the Police Benevolent Association, "is simply without merit and is intended to solely stall the promotion of police personnel to supervisory ranks as has been done for decades," Wednesday’s statement by Government House said.
The statement said the promotions are necessary for the department to emerge from under the federal consent decree.
The PBA represents police officers, detectives and corporals. In its lawsuit, it charged the V.I. Police Department is attempting to unfairly promote officers to the rank of corporal by bypassing a test requirement that is mandatory under the V.I. Code.
The suit brought a temporary restraining order blocking the promotion of officers to the rank of police corporal and led to a Wednesday court hearing over claims the government says are "without standing or merit."
“It is well known by the PBA leadership that the rank structure of the VIPD requires no examination to be promoted to police corporal," Police Commissioner Rodney F. Querrard, Sr. said. "The issuance of the rank is based on exemplary service, commitment to duty and years of service to the department. We have utilized the same process and standards for those that currently hold the rank of corporal within the department. Every one of the officers selected for promotion have in excess of fifteen years of service with the department and have demonstrated their dedication to law enforcement and the people of the Virgin Islands whom they are sworn to protect.
Attorney General Vincent Frazer suggested the police union has explaining to do to its own members.
"The leaders of the PBA union should perhaps expend its energy on explaining to its members, which includes police officers and police corporals, how its dismal performance has led to the local chapters being placed in administratorship. Local government officials were served with notice in the last two weeks that the poor performance of the local PBA has landed the union in a troubled state," Frazer said.
“Given this dispute with the international association to which the PBA is affiliated, it is questionable whether the leadership of the local chapters of the PBA even has standing to seek the court’s intervention in the legitimate promotion of the officers,” the AG concluded.
Government House said the timing of the PBA’s lawsuit was not appropriate "at a time when the union leadership is under scrutiny which brings into question the legality of any action it takes."
Instead, the government said, "The PBA members of the department should be looking to its leaders for a full airing of how the union has slipped into ‘administratorship’ and how are their rights – as dues-paying members of the union – are being protected by leaders who have failed to maintain the most basic good standing and good name of the local chapters of the Police Benevolent Association union."
The PBA’s lawsuit claimed that the list of officers to be promoted – 13 on St. Thomas and 11 on St. Croix – consists of personnel who have ties to deJongh.