I am a 20 plus year St. John resident who, like many others, has had a difficult time having any confidence in our Police force for a too long a time…a depressing thought.
This was based on numerous, unprofessional and police authoritarian style interactions where I have walked away scratching my head-wondering why I was made to feel like the "criminal" when I was either seeking help or reporting a potential crime.
However, there is reason to feel optimistic-even hopeful!
In my honest opinion–Commissioner Lewis has the right future vision for our police force: community policing–both police officers and community citizens working TOGETHER to solve crime problems. Without that combination–our communities cannot and will not be able to fight increasing crime in the VI's.
In fact-Commissioner Lewis has sent two officers to Coral Bay who have made a big impact on our small community.
Why? Because these officers are trained in community policing.
Simply put, these two officers set a tone of "trust."
The two officers I speak of are Officers Felming and Huggins seen actively in Coral Bay going to restaurants and bars-showing their interest to see that public safety is in place. What they say in their actions is "The police are here-we care about everyone's safety and are interested in knowing who lives here and what is going on. It is our job to protect this community- we care."
These officers extend their hands and greet everyone they meet.
They are building "relationships".
When relationships are built "trust" results.
When "trust" is created-people work together.
These officers are seen as "helpers" and "problem solvers" resulting in both empowerment and hope in our community.
I attended a "Community Policing" workshop with 30 St. Thomas police officers. The caliber of training I experienced in this workshop was incredibly exciting and so different than our usual "old-way police practices".
Both Officers Fleming and Huggins have the exact skills that we so desperately need to "bridge the gap" between citizens and officers.
I believe that Commissioner Lewis is doing a great job in facilitating a new kind of policing in the VI's. I have great faith in what he is personally doing for our Islands.
We desperately need this change.
I hope that he considers using Coral Bay as a model on how our policing can be much more effective with officers like Huggins and Fleming working with citizens as team against crime.
Community policing is the right way for our police force to be heading.
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