March 10, 2009 — Eight newcomers to St. Croix have landed on the territory's "big island," and their arrival was eagerly awaited. They are the members of the Experienced Law Enforcement Officers (ELEO) program that has begun in the Virgin Islands.
The eight officers come from as far away as Hawaii and as close to home as Charlotte Amalie. Monday they attended their first orientation at the St. Croix Police Training Academy.
According to the department, none of the eight will be named, photographed or interviewed until they receive their assignments. These experienced officers can be used in undercover operations, according to Police Commissioner James McCall. Once the officers have completed their training they will be assigned to units in both districts.
The ELEOs range in experience from three to 27 years in law enforcement. Several have their roots on various islands. One, who recently worked on police departments in New York and Georgia, has parents who were born in Jamaica. Another was born on Barbados and worked with a police force in Mississippi. An officer who is a native Hawaiian said he just wanted to do something different, and the officer from Chicago was really glad to get out of the cold of a Midwest winter. Still another worked as a sheriff and is a fourth generation police officer who returned to St. Croix to carry on the legacy of his St. Croix forefathers. Two, who hail from St. Thomas, worked as a corrections officer and a police officer stateside, and said they are just glad to be back in the V.I.
The officer who worked on the New Jersey police force visited the V.I. several times in the past and decided to move here when he saw a law enforcement officer having lunch with his family on the beach.
What a great life that must be, he said to himself at the time. Fast forward a few years and here he is in the ELEO program and his family has relocated to the V.I.
These officers will bring a wide range of law enforcement experience to their posts here in the territory," said Gov. John P. deJongh Jr. "They also represent additional manpower to bolster the department as we continue our aggressive efforts to combat crime and reinforce our first line of protection, deJongh said.
Commissioner McCall said the idea was a major initiative of deJongh's administration, and it isn't unique to the Virgin Islands. With the aging of the baby boom generation, McCall said, police departments across the country are scrambling to find experienced officers. The eight officers who joined the ranks of the V.I.P.D. this week bring years of experience from departments all over the U.S., McCall noted.
Gov. deJongh was especially pleased to note that several of the officers who participated in the program have ties to both St. Croix and St. Thomas.
With a full time recruiter in place at VIPD we are seeing our efforts bear fruit and I wish this group well as they embark on their training. I look forward to them bringing their collective experience to bear during their employment with the V.I. Police Department, deJongh said.
The officers passed pre-screening evaluations prior to arriving in the V.I. This included a background check and an in-person board evaluation by the Chiefs of Police, the Internal Affairs Director and other VI police personnel held in Atlanta in January. They also had to pass a physiological exam and a polygraph test.
The officers on-island training consists of 270 hours of instruction at the VIPD Training Academy. Included in the curriculum is cultural diversity training, defensive driving, ethics, sexual harassment, use of force policy, VI code, constitutional law, domestic violence and report writing, among other subjects.
A call to St. Croix Police Chief Oakland Benta for comment on the program was not returned as of this afternoon.
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