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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, June 30, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesTOP COP SELLS SECURITY UNIT; UNION NOT BUYING

TOP COP SELLS SECURITY UNIT; UNION NOT BUYING

The Turnbull administration is on the offensive to try to legitimize the formation of a special unit to protect the governor, lieutenant governor and the territory’s budget.
Officers from the V.I. Police Department’s general force are now assigned to the governor and lieutenant governor’s security units. But the practice means officers rack up exorbitant amounts of overtime pay. To address the issue, Gov. Charles Turnbull announced last April that he would form an executive security unit within the Police Department.
In a Government House release Tuesday, Police Commissioner Franz Christian said the proposed unit would save the department $500,000 annually. Christian said that between 1994 and now, some officers assigned to the security unit earned more than $100,000 a year.
Criticism of the new unit has been strong, especially from the St. Croix Police Benevolent Association and other government employees who see it as needless spending at a time when Turnbull says there is no money for wage increases.
The St. Croix PBA is planning to block Turnbull’s efforts in court, saying the move violates the collective bargaining agreement between police officers and the government. Naomi Joseph, PBA president, said the union has no problem with the unit as long as it’s not staffed by PBA members.
"Put employees in there that aren’t part of the bargaining unit," Joseph said, adding that the $500,000 Christian claims will be saved by the new unit will be offset by taking officers off the street to protect the governor and lieutenant governor. "We need police officers. There is not enough manpower as it is."
In the Government House release, Christian disputed reports that the unit would have 35 sworn officers. While he said the size of the unit hasn’t been decided, the number of sworn officers assigned in the past has been as high as 12. Seven sworn officers are now assigned to protect the governor and lieutenant governor, he said.
In addition to the sworn officers, the unit will include Government House orderlies, chauffeurs and guards who will receive their regular salaries.
Salaries for sworn officers in the new unit will be in the "$50,000 range to compensate, at best, the duties of these officers without overtime compensation," Christian said.
All members of the unit will be unclassified employees, retain their respective ranks and seniority in the departments they were in prior to being assigned to the unit and be able to test for promotion, according to the Turnbull administration.
That, however, doesn’t sit well with the PBA. Officers in the proposed unit aren’t going to be part of the Police Department, Joseph said. The idea that the security unit members would still retain their ranks and be able to take promotional exams makes it unfair for other officers, Joseph said.
"They will have a foot in and out of the door at the same time," she said.
The unit will be headed by a director who will be designated by the police commissioner with the approval of the governor. The unit will protect the chief executive and his second-in-command on a 24-hour basis.
Members of the unit will accompany their charges outside of the territory and escort visiting dignitaries and officials of the Governor’s Office. They will also be responsible for transportation, guarding the governor and the lieutenant governor’s residences and other duties the governor assigns.

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The Turnbull administration is on the offensive to try to legitimize the formation of a special unit to protect the governor, lieutenant governor and the territory’s budget.
Officers from the V.I. Police Department’s general force are now assigned to the governor and lieutenant governor’s security units. But the practice means officers rack up exorbitant amounts of overtime pay. To address the issue, Gov. Charles Turnbull announced last April that he would form an executive security unit within the Police Department.
In a Government House release Tuesday, Police Commissioner Franz Christian said the proposed unit would save the department $500,000 annually. Christian said that between 1994 and now, some officers assigned to the security unit earned more than $100,000 a year.
Criticism of the new unit has been strong, especially from the St. Croix Police Benevolent Association and other government employees who see it as needless spending at a time when Turnbull says there is no money for wage increases.
The St. Croix PBA is planning to block Turnbull’s efforts in court, saying the move violates the collective bargaining agreement between police officers and the government. Naomi Joseph, PBA president, said the union has no problem with the unit as long as it’s not staffed by PBA members.
"Put employees in there that aren’t part of the bargaining unit," Joseph said, adding that the $500,000 Christian claims will be saved by the new unit will be offset by taking officers off the street to protect the governor and lieutenant governor. "We need police officers. There is not enough manpower as it is."
In the Government House release, Christian disputed reports that the unit would have 35 sworn officers. While he said the size of the unit hasn’t been decided, the number of sworn officers assigned in the past has been as high as 12. Seven sworn officers are now assigned to protect the governor and lieutenant governor, he said.
In addition to the sworn officers, the unit will include Government House orderlies, chauffeurs and guards who will receive their regular salaries.
Salaries for sworn officers in the new unit will be in the "$50,000 range to compensate, at best, the duties of these officers without overtime compensation," Christian said.
All members of the unit will be unclassified employees, retain their respective ranks and seniority in the departments they were in prior to being assigned to the unit and be able to test for promotion, according to the Turnbull administration.
That, however, doesn’t sit well with the PBA. Officers in the proposed unit aren’t going to be part of the Police Department, Joseph said. The idea that the security unit members would still retain their ranks and be able to take promotional exams makes it unfair for other officers, Joseph said.
"They will have a foot in and out of the door at the same time," she said.
The unit will be headed by a director who will be designated by the police commissioner with the approval of the governor. The unit will protect the chief executive and his second-in-command on a 24-hour basis.
Members of the unit will accompany their charges outside of the territory and escort visiting dignitaries and officials of the Governor’s Office. They will also be responsible for transportation, guarding the governor and the lieutenant governor’s residences and other duties the governor assigns.