On any given day or night, hundreds of committed law enforcement officers leave their loved ones behind in order to protect and serve this community.
Their work is often overshadowed by the lack of credibility in the leadership of the V.I. Police Department. The unethical conduct of persons holding key positions critical to the administration of justice, threatens the constitutional freedom America promises.
Contrary to the suggestions coming from the head of the police department, crime should not be tolerated or overlooked simply because it's a Caribbeanwide problem. Instead, we must take all the necessary steps to bring the V.I. crime problem under control now.
It is no secret that many individuals arrested and charged with committing serious crimes in the Virgin Islands maneuver their way through our justice system and find their way back on the streets without penalty. Criminals are allowed to manipulate our broken judicial system to their benefit. Where else is justice administered based on friendship, family affiliation or business association?
There is no way that police officers can begin to tackle the crime problem without the proper resources. Without a crime lab, officers and detectives alike are restricted from bringing criminals to justice. The malfunctioning communication system must be fixed and those guilty of robbing millions of the taxpayers' dollars through telecommunication contracts of the past should be brought to justice. It is a handicap no honest police officer should have to endure. Morale and productivity can be improved by paying the police force and all government employees what is owed them.
Ninety percent of our police force consists of decent, well-trained men and women who are ready to address the runaway crime problem. The honest officer's reputation however is tarnished by the less than 10 percent of rogue cops, allowed to terrorize the citizenry, while under the protection of the Internal Affairs Bureau.
We need to make a serious investment in our police department. We must appropriate money to hire the additional number of officers needed to effectively respond to the needs of this community. We must also begin to set aside funding to provide incentives to officers who have shown exemplary work.
There are any other number of ideas that can help improve the image and performance of the VIPD.
The department's public relations strategy is not the antidote to crime. Commitment and oversight from our political leaders is essential to the process. The Senate has the authority to investigate the unethical behavior of any government department including the VIPD. The time to restore the public's confidence in the VIPD is now. The hardworking, devoted officers and the V.I. community as a whole deserve nothing less.
Editor's note: Gonzalo Rivera is a community activist and youth counselor at the Youth Rehabilitation Center on St. Croix. He is also studying information technology.
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