Turnbull administration officials looking for ways to shore up the underfunded Police Department have uncovered what could be an unspent cache of nearly $11 million in federal dollars at the Law Enforcement Planning Commission.
Roy Frett, Government House deputy chief of staff, said "almost $10 million" may be available from LEPC funds awarded the territory five years ago. "The report shows there's money in the account," he said.
It may be closer to $11 million. According to information obtained from the U.S. Justice Department, $10,924,356 remains unspent from a universal hiring grant of $15.7 million awarded through the LEPC on April 1, 1995.
The money, distributed under the federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, was awarded to hire additional V.I. police officers over a six-year period that will expire July 31, 2000.
Government House chief of staff Juel Molloy said officials would look into the possibility of reprogramming the funds for supplies, equipment, training and other costs related to daily police operations.
Any of the money not spent by the grant expiration date must be returned to the U.S. Justice Department, Capt. Al Donastorg, head of the Law Enforcement Supervisors Union, said. "With this money we could do a lot," he added.
The funds were reportedly identified at a Jan. 25 meeting of Gov. Charles Turnbull, Police Commissioner Franz Christian and Territorial Police Chief Jose Garcia. The meeting was held after the Forensics Unit abandoned its downtown Charlotte Amalie offices because of what officers termed intolerable working conditions. They told the news media they could no longer collect or store certain kinds of crime evidence.
Police have also long complained of conditions at the Zone A Police Command on Norre Gade. A move to renovated quarters at the nearby Farrelly Justice Complex is pending; Molloy said it should take place in March.
Deputy Police Commissioner Jerris Brown, at the behest of the governor, visited Zone A on Jan. 27 to assess "the situation and any shortages that might keep the officers from doing their job." That same day, Frett conferred with Christian and LEPC director Wayne Chinnery "because there was a critical need that had to be addressed." He said more meetings would take place this week.


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