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STRIDIRON, VAN BEVERHOUDT SPLIT ON ARREST POWER

March 17, 2004 – Just when it looked like smooth sailing for Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt to gain peace officer status for his investigators, Attorney General Iver Stridiron has voiced objections to the legislation.
Van Beverhoudt took issue this week with a letter Stridiron wrote to Senate President David Jones last week in which the attorney general basically said that the agents of the Inspector General's Office should not have the power to make arrests.
Stridiron copied his March 8 letter to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards, the governor's chief of staff, Juel Molloy, the members of the Legislature and van Beverhoudt.
The inspector general's response was a letter dated March 15 sent to Turnbull and copied to Richards, Molloy, the senators and Stridiron.
In it, Van Beverhoudt told the governor: "We do not challenge the attorney general's authority to decide whether he will or will not prosecute a matter referred to the Department of Justice, nor do we want that responsibility. However, he does not have the authority to direct what this office investigates, nor how an investigation will be conducted."
Van Beverhoudt said he was upset not just by Stridiron's letter, but by the fact that the two of them had met twice lately,, the more recent meeting having taken place just three days before Stridiron sent his letter to Jones. On neither occasion did Stridiron "indicate he had concerns regarding the proposed legislation," van Beverhoudt wrote the governor.
Justice 'not invited to offer comments'
While Stridiron didn't mention those meetings in his letter, he did state that his office "was not invited to offer comments" on the bill as it moved through the legislative process. "Had we been requested to comment on the original bill," he wrote, "we would have inquired of the Legislature whether it is truly necessary to confer 'arrest powers' on the IG's office."
Stridiron asked what in the nature of the work of the Inspector General's Office requires arrest powers. "The inspector general is an auditor who seeks out waste, mismanagement and fraud (among other things) in government," he wrote. "The Police Department arrests lawbreakers and the Justice Department prosecutes them, quite often on the basis of the IG reports."
In his letter to Jones, Stridiron proposed an amendment to the legislation specifying peace officer status for enforcement officers of the V.I. Lottery and the University of the Virgin Islands campus police.
He wrote: "Certainly it is necessary that campus police officers should have arrest powers in order to arrest and detain … persons who go to a university campus to commit crimes."
Van Beverhoudt in his letter to the governor called Stridiron's assertions "baseless and without merit." He said: "Either Mr. Stridiron does not know or understand the role and authority of the Inspector General's Office, or he chooses to ignore it. His assertions throughout his correspondence deal with only one aspect of the inspector general's authority and responsibility, that is the audit function."
Investigating part of inspector general's mandate
But the Inspector General's Office also has an investigative function, van Beverhoudt, citing a section of the V.I. Code which authorizes the office to "conduct and supervise audits, inspections, and related investigations of programs and operations" of the government.
Further, van Beverhoudt told Jones, his office needs the peace officer status "because much of our investigative work requires criminal background checks on potential subjects of a criminal investigation."
Law-enforcement authority is required for the Inspector General's Office to access various federal criminal information systems, a fact van Beverhoudt repeatedly brought up at Senate hearings. Peace officer status will give his investigators access to the FBI's National Criminal Information Center, the Financial Crimes Intelligence Network, and other information-sharing systems. Van Beverhoudt stressed that access to these systems is essential in effectively carrying out investigations. "At times, our investigators work side-by-side with fellow criminal investigators, federal and local," he said.
Van Beverhoudt accused Stridiron of trying to give the impression that, given peace officer status, his investigators would "be out arresting persons with abandon." He added: "This claim is very disingenuous on his part." According to the inspector general, there have been only two instances where his office has sought to have an individual arrested. In both cases he said, the Justice Department "was aware of the impending arrest, and a warrant showing probable cause was obtained from a Territorial Court judge. Because we didn't have peace officer status, we were forced to coordinate with the police to execute the arrest."
The inspector general said this arrangement "could be very cumbersome and time-consuming. Also, if a confidential undercover operation is ongoing, he said, "the fewer people who know its existence, the less likely for it to be leaked."
The matter "could have been resolved with a discussion between the attorney general and me," Van Beverhoudt said, but "unfortunately, the attorney general chose not to do this."
Van Beverhoudt noted that he has been inspector general for more than 15 years and said that the office "has developed a reputation in the territory and with the federal government as an honest, fair and competent government organization. Any attack on the integrity of this office, or attempt to interfere with the fulfilling of our mandate, will be responded to appropriately."
'We have to have that authority'
On Wednesday, van Beverhoudt said that having peace officer status without the power to arrest is meaningless. He asked, "How can we not have arrest powers? … We're not going to be going around in the street arresting people. It makes no sense. We have to have that authority."
He added that he would have reservations about calling on the attorney general's investigators "when some of his own officers have been the subject of investigations."
In his letter to Turnbull, Van Beverhoudt included documentation concerning mainland Offices of Inspectors General whose field officers have peace officer status and arrest powers.
Speaking on Wednesday from Miami Beach, where he is attending the annual Seatrade convention, Stridiron called it "unfortunate" that van Beverhoudt "objects to my opinion." The attorney general said the amendment he proposed "doesn't take away from the proposal" the inspector general submitted.
"I wasn't basically trying to appear to be interfering with his ability to get his bill through, though I thought it was a bad idea," Stridiron said. "I don't believe IG investigators should have arrest powers. Once it got going, then the IG takes on the role not only of investigating, but enforcing laws, and that's not their role. It's nonsense that it's cumbersome. All it takes is a phone call."
Though Stridiron does question why the IG needs arrest powers in his letter to Jones, the amendment to the peace officer bill he attached to his letter, does not take away the arrest powers of the IG's office.
The amendment includes peace officer status for the University of the Virgin Islands campus police and for V. I. Lottery enforcement officers. Stridiron told Jones, "Certainly, the campus police officers should have arrest powers in order to arrest and detain those persons who would go on a school or university campus to commit crimes; particularly against students, faculty and university property."
Stridiron said he didn't state h
is views on the legislation at the meetings he had with van Beverhoudt because he wasn't asked his opinion.
"Frankly, I am one of the IG's best allies," Stridiron said.. I believe the IG's office should be totally independent of the three branches of government. I don't believe he should be part of the governor's cabinet — because, in effect, he would be investigating his boss. If you're going to investigate the government, you should be independent."
Told of the comments, Van Beverhoudt responded: "I agree with that opinion of the attorney general's."
Turnbull also is in Miami Beach at the Seatrade convention, and the peace officer legislation, approved by the Senate on March 11, has not yet reached his desk.

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March 17, 2004 - Just when it looked like smooth sailing for Inspector General Steven van Beverhoudt to gain peace officer status for his investigators, Attorney General Iver Stridiron has voiced objections to the legislation.
Van Beverhoudt took issue this week with a letter Stridiron wrote to Senate President David Jones last week in which the attorney general basically said that the agents of the Inspector General's Office should not have the power to make arrests.
Stridiron copied his March 8 letter to Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards, the governor's chief of staff, Juel Molloy, the members of the Legislature and van Beverhoudt.
The inspector general's response was a letter dated March 15 sent to Turnbull and copied to Richards, Molloy, the senators and Stridiron.
In it, Van Beverhoudt told the governor: "We do not challenge the attorney general's authority to decide whether he will or will not prosecute a matter referred to the Department of Justice, nor do we want that responsibility. However, he does not have the authority to direct what this office investigates, nor how an investigation will be conducted."
Van Beverhoudt said he was upset not just by Stridiron's letter, but by the fact that the two of them had met twice lately,, the more recent meeting having taken place just three days before Stridiron sent his letter to Jones. On neither occasion did Stridiron "indicate he had concerns regarding the proposed legislation," van Beverhoudt wrote the governor.
Justice 'not invited to offer comments'
While Stridiron didn't mention those meetings in his letter, he did state that his office "was not invited to offer comments" on the bill as it moved through the legislative process. "Had we been requested to comment on the original bill," he wrote, "we would have inquired of the Legislature whether it is truly necessary to confer 'arrest powers' on the IG's office."
Stridiron asked what in the nature of the work of the Inspector General's Office requires arrest powers. "The inspector general is an auditor who seeks out waste, mismanagement and fraud (among other things) in government," he wrote. "The Police Department arrests lawbreakers and the Justice Department prosecutes them, quite often on the basis of the IG reports."
In his letter to Jones, Stridiron proposed an amendment to the legislation specifying peace officer status for enforcement officers of the V.I. Lottery and the University of the Virgin Islands campus police.
He wrote: "Certainly it is necessary that campus police officers should have arrest powers in order to arrest and detain ... persons who go to a university campus to commit crimes."
Van Beverhoudt in his letter to the governor called Stridiron's assertions "baseless and without merit." He said: "Either Mr. Stridiron does not know or understand the role and authority of the Inspector General's Office, or he chooses to ignore it. His assertions throughout his correspondence deal with only one aspect of the inspector general's authority and responsibility, that is the audit function."
Investigating part of inspector general's mandate
But the Inspector General's Office also has an investigative function, van Beverhoudt, citing a section of the V.I. Code which authorizes the office to "conduct and supervise audits, inspections, and related investigations of programs and operations" of the government.
Further, van Beverhoudt told Jones, his office needs the peace officer status "because much of our investigative work requires criminal background checks on potential subjects of a criminal investigation."
Law-enforcement authority is required for the Inspector General's Office to access various federal criminal information systems, a fact van Beverhoudt repeatedly brought up at Senate hearings. Peace officer status will give his investigators access to the FBI's National Criminal Information Center, the Financial Crimes Intelligence Network, and other information-sharing systems. Van Beverhoudt stressed that access to these systems is essential in effectively carrying out investigations. "At times, our investigators work side-by-side with fellow criminal investigators, federal and local," he said.
Van Beverhoudt accused Stridiron of trying to give the impression that, given peace officer status, his investigators would "be out arresting persons with abandon." He added: "This claim is very disingenuous on his part." According to the inspector general, there have been only two instances where his office has sought to have an individual arrested. In both cases he said, the Justice Department "was aware of the impending arrest, and a warrant showing probable cause was obtained from a Territorial Court judge. Because we didn't have peace officer status, we were forced to coordinate with the police to execute the arrest."
The inspector general said this arrangement "could be very cumbersome and time-consuming. Also, if a confidential undercover operation is ongoing, he said, "the fewer people who know its existence, the less likely for it to be leaked."
The matter "could have been resolved with a discussion between the attorney general and me," Van Beverhoudt said, but "unfortunately, the attorney general chose not to do this."
Van Beverhoudt noted that he has been inspector general for more than 15 years and said that the office "has developed a reputation in the territory and with the federal government as an honest, fair and competent government organization. Any attack on the integrity of this office, or attempt to interfere with the fulfilling of our mandate, will be responded to appropriately."
'We have to have that authority'
On Wednesday, van Beverhoudt said that having peace officer status without the power to arrest is meaningless. He asked, "How can we not have arrest powers? ... We're not going to be going around in the street arresting people. It makes no sense. We have to have that authority."
He added that he would have reservations about calling on the attorney general's investigators "when some of his own officers have been the subject of investigations."
In his letter to Turnbull, Van Beverhoudt included documentation concerning mainland Offices of Inspectors General whose field officers have peace officer status and arrest powers.
Speaking on Wednesday from Miami Beach, where he is attending the annual Seatrade convention, Stridiron called it "unfortunate" that van Beverhoudt "objects to my opinion." The attorney general said the amendment he proposed "doesn't take away from the proposal" the inspector general submitted.
"I wasn't basically trying to appear to be interfering with his ability to get his bill through, though I thought it was a bad idea," Stridiron said. "I don't believe IG investigators should have arrest powers. Once it got going, then the IG takes on the role not only of investigating, but enforcing laws, and that's not their role. It's nonsense that it's cumbersome. All it takes is a phone call."
Though Stridiron does question why the IG needs arrest powers in his letter to Jones, the amendment to the peace officer bill he attached to his letter, does not take away the arrest powers of the IG's office.
The amendment includes peace officer status for the University of the Virgin Islands campus police and for V. I. Lottery enforcement officers. Stridiron told Jones, "Certainly, the campus police officers should have arrest powers in order to arrest and detain those persons who would go on a school or university campus to commit crimes; particularly against students, faculty and university property."
Stridiron said he didn't state h is views on the legislation at the meetings he had with van Beverhoudt because he wasn't asked his opinion.
"Frankly, I am one of the IG's best allies," Stridiron said.. I believe the IG's office should be totally independent of the three branches of government. I don't believe he should be part of the governor's cabinet -- because, in effect, he would be investigating his boss. If you're going to investigate the government, you should be independent."
Told of the comments, Van Beverhoudt responded: "I agree with that opinion of the attorney general's."
Turnbull also is in Miami Beach at the Seatrade convention, and the peace officer legislation, approved by the Senate on March 11, has not yet reached his desk.

Back Talk


Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name, and the city and state/country or island where you reside.

Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much -- and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice ... click here.