Home News Local news FORENSICS OFFICERS MOVE TO THE GARDEN

FORENSICS OFFICERS MOVE TO THE GARDEN

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A hearing is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday before Territorial Police Chief Jose Garcia on a class action suit brought against the V.I. Police Department
by the Law Enforcement Supervisors Union over poor working conditions and numerous health hazards.
A dozen officers of the Police Department have taken up office space in Emancipation Garden after moving out of their structurally deficient offices across from Vendors Plaza. The VIPD forensics unit moved out of their 6-year-old offices three weeks ago when ventilation and electrical problems threatened the health of the officers and crime scene technicians. The problems were compounded recently by rodent infestation and the lack of a cleaning service.
The Source has learned that for some time, the officers have complained of the problems at the office known commonly as the "crime lab" only to have their complaints fall on apparent deaf ears.
The biggest problem appears to be the lack of adequate facilities to dry and properly store bloody clothing gathered at crime scenes for use as evidence.
For some time the blood soiled garments were hung on a makeshift line outside the crime lab but the scent began to infiltrate the nearby Tourism Department Hospitality Lounge. Complaints from that agency led to the forensics unit ending the practice.
In addition, improper refrigeration coolers at the crime lab has made it virtually impossible to properly store blood samples for use as evidence.
The forensics unit is an arm of the police department’s investigation bureau under the command of Captain Alvin Venzen.
The unit’s primary mission is to gather evidence at crime scenes that would bolster the government’s case against suspects charged in connection with felony crimes.
The officers have pledged to remain at their newest office, Emancipation Garden, until such time as adequate indoor office space is identified for their use. The relocation of the crime lab from Nisky Center to the present location across from the vendor’s plaza, was described in the mid 1990s as "temporary", six years later, the move appears permanent.
For more than a year the department has been planning a return to its permanent headquarters located on the North Wing of the Alexander Farrelly Justice Center which also houses the Territorial Court and the Bureau of Corrections.
No date has been set as plumbing problems associated with the third floor corrections bureau continue to plaque the almost completely renovated basement, first and second floors of the complex.
Over the last several months police officers assigned to the forensics unit have applied for and received federal grant money to staff the crime lab. The federal money has allowed for the purchase of a second vehicle for the unit, supplies for the various crime scene processing kits, the hiring of crime scene technicians and training for the officers assigned to the unit.
None of the officers assigned to the unit would speak to reporters citing a department policy which prohibits police personnel from speaking to the media
but Capt. Al Donastorg Sr., president of the LESU, confirmed that the officers have moved out of the office. Donsatorg as head of the LESU will represent the officers at Wednesday's hearing.
The majority of police personnel in the forensics unit are represented by the Police Benevolent Association which has not commented on the
situation.
The Source could not confirm late Tuesday whether the federal government’s Occupational and Safety Health Administration, OSHA, has been notified of the potential health hazard to plague the Virgin Islands Police Department.

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