The Rules and Judiciary Committee sent the nomination of acting V.I. Police Commissioner Rodney Querrard to fill the post permanently to the full Senate Monday, with a favorable recommendation.
Rev. Bentley Thomas’s nomination to the St. Thomas/St. John Parole Board was similarly dispatched.
Querrard, who has been acting commissioner since former commissioner Henry White Jr. resigned in January, said he would work with local and federal agencies to increase cooperation and to urge everyone to do everything they can to combat weapons trafficking.
Senate Majority Leader Donald Cole asked Querrard whether the VIPD had implemented legislation passed last fall allowing the department to grant peace officer status to federal officers, allowing them similar immunity from lawsuits while performing police duties as local police receive.
States generally confer this status to make it easier for federal agencies to work with local agencies. The legislation did receive considerable opposition, largely premised on concerns about local sovereignty and the perception that federal officials are sometimes dismissive and arrogant.
Querrard said his office is nearly done drafting procedures and policies to implement the legislation, and the policies are being reviewed and finalized.
"I hope it soon come," Cole said, adding that since the V.I. wants federal help right away, the more quickly procedures for granting peace officer status are set in place, the better.
"The last commissioner came in with accolades and he left very depressed," said Sen. Clarence Payne III, "If you don’t have the ability to make the proper personnel moves to do your job, I see your situation going the way of the last three or four commissioners and I don’t know if you have been subjected to that," Payne said.
DeJongh "told me I can pick any chief and deputy chief for both districts, and it is the same for the deputy commissioner," Querrard said. "I have not run into that resistance and I am hoping in the future I don’t as well," he said.
The department is going to review officer assignments, its firearms policy, work on satisfying a federal consent decree on use of force training and expanding the use of federal resources to combat crime,
Querrard was Thomas-St. John Police Chief from 2007 until he retired in April 2012. He left retirement at deJongh’s request to become acting police commissioner when White resigned.
Querrard joined the VIPD in 1987. While on the force, he served nearly nine years as a member of the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, and held supervisory positions at the Muriel C. Newton and Leander Jurgen commands on St. Thomas and St. John. During his assignment in HIDTA, Querrard earned the rank of police lieutenant.
Rev. Bentley Thomas of St. Thomas received a Ph.D. in biblical leadership by correspondence from the North American School of Theology, in Winter Haven ,Fla., in 2003. He received a master’s in public administration from the University of the Virgin Islands in 1990. Thomas holds several other ecclesiastical certificates and undergraduate degrees.
He has been a pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church on St. Thomas for 50 years, principal of Bethel Baptist Elementary School for 42 years, and chaplain to the St. Thomas prison for 35 years, among other positions of responsibility.
The committee voted without opposition to send both nominees on for a final vote before the full Senate with a favorable recommendation.
Voting yea were Cole, Sens. Shawn-Michael Malone, Janette Millin Young, Myron Jackson, Kenneth Gittens and Sammuel Sanes. Sen. Diane Capehart was absent at the time of the vote. Non-committee members Payne, Sens. Tregenza Roach, Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly and Craig Barshinger were also present.