Oct. 31, 2003 – Police Commissioner Elton Lewis held a press conference Friday afternoon on St. Croix that he had promised would be "an open and frank discussion" of issues that have attracted considerable news media attention in recent weeks.
Among the topics he covered on Friday was controversy surrounding the Oct. 24 arrest of a chief investigator in the Attorney General's Office charges of assault and battery against his 9-year-old son. (See "Child assault case against Justice aide on hold".)
Prior to the arrest of the investigator, William Curtis, Lewis said, "I received a call from Attorney General Stridiron, at which time I was unable to talk with him." Lewis said when he got home, he telephoned Stridiron back.
Lewis said the attorney general said he had "a possible situation which caused him concern." Lewis said Stridiron told him he had been informed that Curtis was "going to be arrested in a domestic-violence situation" and that he was troubled by the "manner in which the investigation was being conducted."
Lewis said he told Stridiron he would look into the situation but was unable to address it immediately. "Subsequently I found out that Mr. Curtis had been arrested," Lewis said. "I informed the attorney general that the situation was unfortunate, and I would discuss the solution with him upon my return" from a short trip off-island.
Lewis said he told Stridiron that since he did not have "sufficient information to form an opinion on the manner in which the arrest had been carried out," he could not act on the attorney general's request for elaboration. He said he apologized to Stridiron for the delay.
On Oct. 27, while Lewis was off-island, Stridiron said his office was "concerned with the incident with William Curtis, as well as the manner with which the arrest took place at the Department of Justice, and whether or not the activity took place despite the commissioner of police's admonition to his subordinates." Further, Stridiron said then, "The commissioner and I have discussed the matter … and he indicated [that] as soon as he came back, he would address the matter with his subordinates."
While Lewis was away, he said, he learned from his office of the media attention to the case. "When I returned, I had an opportunity to review all pertinent information and interview individuals concerning the circumstances surrounding this matter," he said. "Based on my findings, I am satisfied the arrest of Mr. Curtis was conducted lawfully in accordance with the domestic violence statute."
He said he has found no evidence that the police officers involved did not adhere to proper procedures. And, he said, they acted within the scope of their authority. He added that it is up to the attorney general to decide which cases to prosecute, and the Curtis case is no longer in the legal arena of the Police Department.
Lewis then turned to the subject matter of a series of articles published in The V.I. Daily News recently — allegations of police officers drinking beer while on duty. "I launched an internal investigation," he said, but the results were "inconclusive, because of the reluctance of a number of witnesses to come forward."
Concerning the recent slaying of a race horse trainer in the British Virgin Islands who had connections with the local racing scene, Lewis said that an "active investigation" is ongoing and that he had nothing further to report.
Lewis also addressed the issue of police personnel, including Police Chief Novelle Francis, holding part-time jobs during their off-duty hours. He said he has submitted a proposed general order to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull calling for the commissioner to establish a moonlighting policy and for a five-member review board to be set up in each district to enforce it.
He stated that an investigation into the disappearance of material from a Police Department safe is pending.
Regarding fatal shootings by police officers, Lewis said he has, in cooperation with U.S. Attorney David Nissman and the FBI, arranged to have civil-rights training for officers and further training, with the aid of simulators, in the use of force.
Lewis said that 98 percent of his department's budget goes for personnel expenses. He said the federal government recently awarded the territory $2.4 million to hire 20 new officers, 10 for each district, but that the territory must match the grant by 10 percent, or $240,000.
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