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Cripa Virgin Islands Pd Vi Investigation Findings 10-5-05

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U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division

Special Litigation Section - PHB
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20035

October 5, 2005

Via Federal Express and U.S. Mail
Attorney General Kerry Drue
Department of Justice
G.E.R.S. Complex 48B-50C Kronprinsdens Gade
St. Thomas, VI 00802
Commissioner Elton Lewis
Office of the Police Commissioner
Virgin Islands Police Department
#45 Mars Hill Road
Fredricksted, St. Croix, VI 00841
Attorney Daniel Mattarangas-King
Office of the Police Commissioner
#45 Mars Hill Road
Fredricksted, St. Croix, VI 00841
Re:	 United States Department of Justice Investigation of
the Virgin Islands Police Department
Dear Attorney General Drue, Commissioner Lewis and Attorney King:
As you know, in March 2004, the Civil Rights Division
initiated an investigation of the Virgin Islands Police
Department (“VIPD”), pursuant to Violent Crime Control and Law
Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141 (“Section 14141"). We
would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation
for the cooperation and documents that we have received thus far
from the Virgin Islands and the VIPD. However, as you know, we
have made repeated requests for and are still awaiting receipt of
a number of documents, such as outstanding prosecutorial opinions
and investigative files. We would greatly appreciate production
of these items as soon as possible in order to complete our
investigation.

- 2 To date, we have reviewed relevant VIPD policies and
procedures and conducted interviews with Virgin Islands
officials, VIPD command staff, a cross-section of VIPD
supervisors and VIPD police officers.
At the beginning of our investigation, we committed to
providing the Virgin Islands with technical assistance to improve
VIPD’s practices and procedures and ensure compliance with
constitutional rights. During our meetings with you and the VIPD
command staff in April, July and August 2004, we told you that we
would provide in writing more specifics about recommendations our
police practices experts had made orally. In this letter, we
convey our recommendations regarding the VIPD’s written policies.
Important aspects of our fact-gathering process have yet to be
completed, most notably reviewing documents related to specific
incidents of VIPD officers’ uses of force. Therefore, this
letter is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather focuses on
significant recommendations we can provide at this preliminary
stage of our investigation.
We hope this letter will assist in our mutual goal of
ensuring that the VIPD provides the best possible police service
to the people of the Virgin Islands. We look forward to
continued cooperation toward this goal. We would be happy to
provide examples of policies used by other police departments
that might address some of the issues we raise below.
I.

VIPD POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
The VIPD should revise and update its policies and
procedures to be consistent and comprehensive.

Policies and procedures are the primary means by which
police departments communicate their standards and expectations
to their officers. Accordingly, it is essential that the VIPD’s
policies be comprehensive, comprehensible, up-to-date and
consistent with relevant legal standards and contemporary police
practices.
It is our understanding that the VIPD’s policies and
procedures are contained throughout various documents, including
a police manual, a field manual, general orders and standard
operating procedures. The official police and field manuals were
adopted twenty years ago in 1985. Although some policies and
procedures have been revised and updated through the issuance of
general orders and standard operating procedures, the majority of
the VIPD’s policies and procedures remain outdated. Moreover,

- 3 
the field and police manuals do not consistently incorporate
subsequent changes. Significant VIPD policies, such as those
relating to the use of force, use of firearms and investigations
are not organized by subject matter in one document, but instead
are spread throughout different documents. As we discuss in
detail below, several VIPD policies and procedures are
inconsistent with generally accepted police practices and are
insufficiently detailed to provide the appropriate guidance for
officer conduct.
VIPD policies and procedures should apply uniformly and
consistently to all Virgin Islands police officers, whether they
are located on St. Croix, St. Thomas or St. John. We understand
that several VIPD policies and procedures vary from island to
island. For example, the Standard Operating Procedure (“SOP”)
for the Internal Affairs Units (“IAU”) for St. Croix and St.
Thomas/St. John are different.1 We understand that even officer
uniforms vary for each island. It is important for a police
department, even one with particular geographical boundaries such
as the Virgin Islands, to have consistent policies, procedures
and practices.
We recommend that the VIPD’s policies and procedures be
consolidated into one document for all three islands. Although
we do not provide line-by-line edits and recommendations for all
of the VIPD’s policies and procedures, we have endeavored to
provide the VIPD with general recommendations regarding generally
accepted police practices for significant VIPD policies and
procedures (i.e., use of force, citizen complaints,
investigations, discipline, supervisory oversight and training).
We recommend that updated and complete policies and
procedures be distributed to all officers, and all officers
should provide a written acknowledgment of their receipt, review
and understanding of all VIPD policies. We suggest VIPD
designate an individual to be responsible for reviewing the
manuals and any revisions or new policies to ensure consistency.
This individual would also be responsible for ensuring that all
officers receive copies of the manuals and revisions, and for
maintaining copies of officers’ signed acknowledgments.

1


There is one IAU for St. Croix and another IAU for St.
Thomas/St. John. Both IAUs are under the supervision of the
Director of the Internal Affairs Bureau. For purposes of this
letter, unless otherwise noted, references in this letter to the
IAU SOP are references to the St. Croix IAU SOP, which appears to
contain more information than the St. Thomas/St. John IAU SOP.

- 4 
II.

USE OF FORCE
The VIPD should revise its use of force policies regarding
the use of force by VIPD officers and adopt an appropriate
use of force continuum.

In the course of duty, police officers are sometimes
required to use deadly and non-deadly force. Because the use of
force can place officers, civilians and subjects at serious risk
of harm, it is incumbent upon law enforcement agencies to ensure
that officers use force appropriately. Use of force policies and
procedures must clearly set forth standards for appropriate use
of force that are in accordance with constitutional standards.
A.

Legal Standards Governing the Use of Force

Uses of excessive force by police officers are violations of
the Fourth Amendment and are analyzed under the Fourth
Amendment’s objective reasonableness standard. Graham v. Connor,
490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989). The analysis requires a balancing of
the quality of intrusion on the individual’s Fourth Amendment
interests against the governmental interests. Id. at 396. The
criteria courts apply to assess an excessive force claim include
the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect presents
an immediate safety threat to the officers or others, and whether
the suspect is actively resisting or attempting to evade arrest.
Id.; Abraham v. Raso, 183 F.3d 279, 288 (3d Cir. 1999). Lack of
specific policy guidance on the appropriate use of force may lead
officers to believe that they are justified in using force in
situations in which it would be unreasonable or unnecessary.
Conversely, unclear or overly general policies may result in
officers refraining from using necessary and appropriate force
out of an unwarranted fear of using excessive force.
The Supreme Court held that deadly force is permissible only
when a suspect poses an immediate threat of serious physical harm
to the officer or another person. Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S.
1 (1985). The only exception to this general rule is the
“fleeing felon” rule, which allows police officers to use deadly
force to prevent the escape of a suspect in cases where there is
probable cause to believe the suspect either poses an immediate
threat of serious harm to the officer or another, or has
committed a crime involving the infliction or threatened
infliction of serious physical harm. Id.; Abraham v. Raso, 183
F.3d 279, 288 (3d Cir. 1999). Yet, even in such circumstances,
police are required to provide a warning, if feasible, before

- 5 
using deadly force. Garner, 471 U.S. at 11. Deadly force is
permissible only for as long as the threat remains. When the
threat is over, the use of deadly force must stop. VIPD’s use of
force policy does not comport with these legal standards.
Accordingly, as discussed in further detail below, we recommend
that the VIPD’s use of force policy be revised to incorporate
these constitutional standards.
B.

VIPD’s Use of Force Policy2

Current VIPD policy instructs officers that they may use
force as permitted by law, but the policy does not adequately
identify authorized weapons or define key terms in the policy,
such as “deadly force” and “deadly physical force.” The use of
force policy is inconsistent with applicable legal standards and
does not outline the limitations on the use of deadly and nondeadly force, including de-escalation techniques.
We recommend the use of force policy identify the weapons
that are authorized for use by the department and where each
weapon falls on the use of force continuum, discussed in further
detail below. We recommend that the VIPD define key terms, such
as force, deadly physical force, serious use of force, serious
bodily injury, etc. The definition of deadly force should
include any use of force that is likely to cause death or serious
bodily injury in accordance with Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1
(1985). The lack of clear and consistent definitions of key
terms in a use of force policy is particularly important given
the current absence of in-service training for VIPD officers. We
recommend that the VIPD’s use of force policy identify any uses
of force that are specifically prohibited or restricted to
limited circumstances (e.g., choke holds or carotid control
holds). The policy should include a description and the dangers
of positional asphyxia and the methods and procedures to avoid
it.
We recommend the VIPD use of force policy specify that

2


During our tour of St. Croix we received a document
labeled “Proposed Use of Force Policy, General Order 2004-001.”
General Order (“GO”) 2004-001 is currently being used as VIPD’s
Use of Force Policy. Reportedly, however, the policy still
requires the Governor’s final approval before it is an official
policy. Our observations and recommendations are based on our
review of GO 2004-001 and, where applicable, the VIPD Police
Manual, VIPD Field Manual, Standard Operating Procedures, and
other relevant GOs.

- 6 -

“deadly physical force” includes force methods that employ
potentially lethal weapons (i.e., firearms, PR-24, etc.). Due to
the possibility of death or serious bodily injury from the
delivery of blows to the head with impact weapons, we recommend
that the VIPD specifically limit strikes to the head with impact
weapons, such as the PR-24 or flashlights, as tactics of last
resort to be used only when the use of deadly force would
otherwise be authorized. The only guidance the current VIPD
policy provides regarding head strikes is that they “should be
avoided to the extent possible.” (GO 2004-001, Section 4.2.4.).
VIPD’s policy should also define “non-deadly force.” We
recommend that the VIPD’s definition include all uses of force
beyond un-resisted handcuffing including, but not limited to, the
use of hard-hand tactics, Oleoresin Capsicum (“OC”), and strikes
with impact weapons. The use of force policy should include
alternatives to more significant uses of force, such as
emphasizing announcement of officers’ presence, verbal commands,
the use of “soft hand” techniques (i.e., using hands to escort
rather than control subjects) and other de-escalation techniques.
At a minimum, the policy should require that officers use the
lowest level of force necessary to safely resolve a situation,
including non-threatening verbal commands and alternative
negotiation techniques.
VIPD’s use of force policy should incorporate the deescalation techniques appropriate to interactions with
individuals with mental illness or who are under the influence of
drugs or alcohol, including guidance to officers regarding the
signs or symptoms for identifying such individuals. The policies
and procedures should be revised to incorporate recent research
and studies on police interactions with persons with mental
illness and how best to accommodate these individuals. VIPD
should establish special response teams on St. Thomas and St.
Croix, composed of at least two officers who are specifically
designated and trained, to respond to all situations involving
individuals with mental illness. VIPD should establish a working
relationship with local public mental health providers as a
resource for training and support. Whenever practical, local
mental health providers should be called to the scene of
incidents involving persons with mental illness so that VIPD
officers can utilize their knowledge and training.
C.

Use of Force Continuum

The VIPD’s use of force continuum, which is included as an
attachment to GO 2004-001, is incomplete because it fails to
address and include several essential elements, such as adequate

- 7 
and understandable diagrams and force definitions, the authorized
types of force and authorized weapons.
We recommend the VIPD develop a comprehensive use of force
continuum that augments and enhances a revised use of force
policy. The use of force continuum should be a fluid and
flexible policy guide to provide effective and efficient
policing. Consistent with the practices of many other police
departments, the continuum should be used to train officers to
consider lower levels of force first, which protects the safety
of both the officer and the civilian.
We recommend that the VIPD’s use of force continuum be
revised to provide diagrams that illustrate the various
descriptions of uses of force that may be employed and make them
consistent with the terms and definitions outlined in other parts
of the policy. The descriptions of force should be more detailed
and include descriptions of how the various force options may be
used, how the various applications of the options affect their
placement in the use of force progression, and what level of
force is appropriate in response to different levels of
resistance by suspects, including de-escalation techniques and
interactions with individuals with a mental illness or who are
under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The continuum should
include all of the actual types of force used by VIPD, including,
firearms, OC spray, PR-24s, canines, batons, and any other use of
force.
D.

Specific Force Policies

We have reviewed VIPD’s use of force policies regarding
specific uses of force and have the following comments.
1.

Firearms

VIPD policies fail to provide clear guidance and
comprehensive procedures regarding the use of firearms. Current
VIPD policies inconsistently refer to the types of weapons and
ammunition that are authorized to be carried by officers. For
example, Section 5.7.3 of the VIPD Police Manual specifies that
the regulation service revolver of the VIPD is a .38 caliber
revolver, but GO 90-1 appears to revise this and specifies that
the regulation service weapon for the VIPD is the .9 millimeter
semi-automatic pistol or the .38 Special Double Action Revolver
with a four-inch barrel. The policies fail to provide sufficient
guidelines for firearms qualification. They fail to specify
procedures following deadly force situations, including
procedures for reporting and documenting firearm discharges. The

- 8 
VIPD firearm policies do not provide important guidance to
officers regarding the appropriate circumstances under which
firearms may and may not be carried and used in off-duty
situations.
We recommend the firearm policy clearly identify the
equipment officers are expected to routinely carry and the
appropriate exceptions. The policy should specify all firearms
and ammunition that are allowed on- and off-duty. The VIPD
should establish a system of accountability for both Departmentissued and personal ammunition so that the Department is able to
monitor how much ammunition is used and the circumstances in
which it is used. This will facilitate investigations into
firearm discharges.
We recommend that officers qualify to use each type of
firearm the VIPD allows them to carry biannually. Section 3.9 of
GO 84-2 appears to allow officers who fail to qualify with their
weapons to remain in their positions for up to six months before
they are suspended from duty. We recommend that all officers who
fail firearms qualifications on any weapon be barred from serving
in posts that require the use of a weapon until such time as they
are able to qualify on the required weapon.
We recommend that the firearms policy be revised to require
that all discharges of firearms by officers on- or off-duty,
including unintentional discharges, be reported and investigated.
Current VIPD policy limits investigations to incidents in which
an officer discharges a firearm “while acting in the capacity of
a police officer.” (GO 2004-001, Section 4.4.1). Additionally,
VIPD police officers are authorized to carry their weapons at all
times, without any limitations. We recommend that the Department
develop and implement guidelines and regulations for using and
carrying firearms while off-duty, including prohibiting officers
from carrying a firearm if they are or have been recently
drinking alcohol.
2.

Intermediate Force Weapons

GOs 2004-001 and 91-3 provide limited information and
guidance regarding intermediate force weapons, including straight
and ASP batons,3 O.C. Spray and stun guns. The policies fail to

3


During our site visits we were informed that the VIPD
had recently purchased ASP batons and would be distributing them
to officers in the near future. GO 2004-001 mentions batons and
kubatons, in addition to the ASP baton. We recommend VIPD

- 9 
adequately identify all of the authorized intermediate force
weapons and to provide instructions and guidance regarding the
proper restrictions and use of such weapons. For example,
current VIPD policy states generally that “[o]fficers may employ
standard manufactured impact weapons capable of being carried on
the uniform duty belt or plain-clothes assignment.” (GO 2004001, Section 4.2.4). In other words, VIPD officers appear to be
authorized to carry as many impact weapons as they can fit on
their duty belts. Additionally, GO 91-3 fails to specify which
officers or rank of officers are authorized to carry and deploy
stun guns and whether carrying stun guns will be mandatory or
optional.
We recommend that VIPD create a separate and comprehensive
policy that gives specific guidance and restrictions on all
intermediate force weapons, including straight and ASP batons,
O.C. Spray and stun guns. This policy should include, among
other things, where these and other intermediate force weapons
fall within the use of force continuum, the circumstances under
which the intermediate weapon should be used and instructions on
how to properly use it, prohibitions on the use of the weapon,
whether all officer are required to carry them, reporting
procedures, and decontamination procedures for O.C. Spray.
Because officers may unnecessarily resort to their firearms if
intermediate force options are not available, we recommend that
all officers be required to carry O.C. Spray, in addition to the
PR-24 or ASP Baton. Appropriate training on the use and
deployment of all intermediate weapons should be developed and
implemented.
3.

Canines

The VIPD has canine units located on St. Croix and St.
Thomas, which operate under the VIPD’s Special Operations
Bureaus. The units follow the policies outlined in the Canine
Corps Standard Operating Procedures (“CC SOP”). However, the
outdated CC SOPs were promulgated in the mid- to late 1980s and
do not reflect current generally accepted practices and
procedures. The CC SOPs fail to give proper guidance for the use
and prohibitions on the use of canines. They also fail to
specify the individuals who are authorized to deploy canine teams
and to provide operational control over the team during the
deployment.

develop corresponding policies and procedures for the use of all
existing and new intermediate force weapons employed by the VIPD.

- 10 
We recommend VIPD’s canine policy be revised to give canine
handlers adequate guidance and instructions regarding the use of
canines. The policy should require canine officers to
specifically announce that police officers with a trained police
canine are on the premises, that a trained police canine is on
the scene, and that there is a risk that the canine may bite.
This complete announcement should be amplified, repeated at least
once, and made in another language, if applicable, and the
suspect should be given a reasonable amount of time to
voluntarily surrender before the canine is deployed, absent
exigent circumstances. If the deployment involves the search of
a multi-level structure, the complete announcement should, if
feasible, be made and repeated on each level to ensure that
appropriate warning and opportunity to surrender is provided. It
is generally accepted practice for canines conducting building
searches for suspects to be unleashed but within visual
observation of their handlers unless there are exigent
circumstances.
Current canine policy provides that canines may be used to
prevent “imminent danger” to life or property or prevent escapes
from custody. Because the use of canines is a serious use of
force, current policy should be revised to prohibit the use of
canines for the protection of property. We also recommend the
policy be revised to clarify that canines should not be used to
prevent the escape of suspected misdemeanants. We recommend
VIPD’s canine policy provide further guidance on those situations
which are considered “imminent danger to life” situations and
should cross-reference these situations to the use of force
continuum.
We recommend that VIPD revise its canine policy to make
clear that supervisory canine officers and canine handlers can
not authorize deployment of their own dogs, absent extraordinary
circumstances. Canine teams deployed in the field should be
supervised by a non-involved canine supervisor or a field
supervisor, when a canine supervisor is not available.
4.

Specialized Units

VIPD has the following specialized units: Street
Enforcement Team (“SET”); Marine Units; and Special Response Team
(“SRT”) units. These teams perform distinct functions throughout
the Virgin Islands, including protecting witnesses, serving high
risk warrants, patrolling high crime areas, and other high risk
duties. We were provided with few, if any, policies or
procedures for these specialized units.

- 11 
We recommend the VIPD develop clear policies and procedures
for each of these specialized units, including officer selection
criteria, authorized tactics and weapons, chain of command and
training. Due to the high risk nature of the missions of these
units, clear and detailed policies and procedures should be
developed by the VIPD.
E.

Use of Force Reporting

General Order 2004-001 limits the circumstances under which
a use of force report is required to be made. For example,
Section 4.2.3 requires a use of force report only when there is
an injury, medical treatment is required or requested, or the
force used related to a criminal charge (i.e., resisting arrest,
assault, endangering or harassment). A use of force report is
only required to be completed by the “arresting officer and any
other officer notified by a supervisor.” In addition, this
Section fails to identify the specific form to used or the time
frame in which this report must be completed.
Section 4.4 outlines a different reporting procedure for the
discharge of firearms, but it does not indicate whether this
report is also considered a use of force report. Section 4.4 is
deficient in several ways. It does not state whether the
reporting requirements apply to all officers whether on- or offduty. It fails to specify the type of report to be completed
(i.e., use of force report, narrative), who is required to
complete the report (i.e., officers and/or supervisors), and what
information is required in the reports. The time frames and
limitations provided in Section 4.4 are inconsistent with
generally accepted law enforcement practices. For example,
Section 4.4 allows for firearm discharge reports to be completed
within 72 hours of the incident and prohibits videotape or
audiotape recorded interviews within the first 24 hours following
an incident. These time frames should be shortened or
eliminated.
We recommend that VIPD policy be revised to provide detailed
guidance and procedures for reporting all uses of physical or
instrumental force beyond un-resisted handcuffing on a form
dedicated solely to recording use of force information.4 The
policy should be revised to require the arresting officer and all

4


All uses of force should be recorded on this form,
including physical uses of force, shootings, or uses of force
involving other weapons such as stun guns, tasers, or ASP batons.

- 12 other officers who took part in or witnessed a use of force to
prepare a report detailing the event.
We recommend the form be structured so that discrete
information about multiple uses of force by multiple officers in
a single incident may be recorded. The form should require
officers to provide a detailed description of the incident,
beginning with the basis for the initial contact, continuing
through the specific circumstances and actions that prompted each
use of force, resulting injuries, and medical treatment. The
form should contain check boxes, which may be supported by a
narrative, where appropriate. The form should include sections
to indicate whether the named witnesses provided statements and
for supervisors to evaluate each use of force.
We recommend that the policy specify that all use of force
reports and information be appropriately and timely reported and
recorded, the responsibility of the first-line supervisor to
ensure the use of force is documented, and a procedure for the
information to be provided to the chain-of-command. The policy
should establish a review mechanism to ensure that officers are
complying with the reporting procedures and provide for
appropriate administrative sanctions for officers who fail to
comply.
F.

Use of Force Review and Investigation

Supervisory review of officer uses of force is critical to a
department’s ability to ensure officers are using force in a
manner consistent with constitutional standards and the
department’s policies. Use of force reviews may identify both
officer training needs and patterns of unauthorized or excessive
uses of force. The information regarding each use of force
should be tracked in an Early Warning System (“EWS”), as
discussed in further detail below.
VIPD lacks a clear policy on reviewing uses of force and
investigating those that appear excessive, avoidable, and/or
indicative of potentially criminal misconduct. GOs 92-3 and
2004-001 specify that the VIPD will review all circumstances
involving critical incidents or violent confrontations. However,
92-3 limits such critical incident review to situations where a
firearm or other deadly weapon is used. This review policy
inappropriately focuses on the type of weapon used. The review
policy establishes a panel to review critical incidents and
violent confrontations, but it does not provide any guidance to
its members regarding the appropriate review process.

- 13 
We recommend that the VIPD force review policy be revised to
state that all shootings and uses of force, whether they involve
a weapon or not, be reviewed by VIPD officials. All uses of
force beyond un-resisted handcuffing should be reviewed at some
level within a police agency. The policy should outline the
procedures for supervisory review regarding lower-level uses of
force and the procedures for review and investigation regarding
higher-level uses of force, including potential criminal
misconduct.5 The policy should provide clear guidelines for
supervisors to follow in their review and investigation,
including an approval signature or block on the appropriate forms
and the circumstances under which a supervisor is required to
notify command staff, including the Territorial Chief and the
Police Commissioner.
We recommend that the IAU be responsible for routinely
responding to the scene and investigating uses of force in which
the subject is injured or complains of excessive use of force and
all firearm discharges, except discharges in the course of
training or certification.
III. VEHICLE PURSUITS
The VIPD’s vehicle pursuit policy is outdated and deficient
in several areas. The policy fails to distinguish between
“emergency driving” and “high speed pursuits.” It does not
specify when such actions are authorized or the proper procedures
for and the supervisory control of such pursuits.
We recommend that VIPD policy be revised to clarify the
distinction between emergency driving and high speed pursuits.
Emergency driving typically refers to situations where officers
are responding to calls and situations involving the protection
of life (e.g., responding to a bank robbery in progress). High
speed pursuits generally refer to situations in which officers
are pursuing, for example, an armed and dangerous felony suspect
fleeing a scene in a vehicle.
Because high-speed vehicle pursuits present a great risk of
harm to the officer, the subject, innocent bystanders and other
drivers, they should only be authorized for the apprehension of
individuals who are alleged to have committed or are committing
specified serious felonies and who pose an immediate threat of

5


The policy should specifically provide the procedures
and guidelines for compelling statements from officers in
accordance with Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967).

- 14 
serious physical harm to the officer or the public. Accordingly,
we recommend the policy be revised to eliminate the general and
broad category of “assaults,” which includes misdemeanor
assaults, as a justification for high speed pursuits.
We recommend that the VIPD policy be revised to contain
specific instructions and provisions for supervisory control of
pursuits. In all cases of pursuit, a supervisor should take
command of the pursuit and be responsible for its continuance or
discontinuance. In addition to road, traffic, light, weather and
vehicle conditions, and driver’s ability, the policy should be
revised to require the supervisor to consider public safety and
the likelihood of apprehending the suspect at another time.
Following each pursuit, VIPD should conduct a supervisory review
of the pursuit for consistency with VIPD policy. This review
should consider only those facts known to officers at the time of
the pursuit and not information subsequently obtained.
IV.

HOLDING CELLS

We sent a letter addressed to Commissioner Lewis in October
2004, regarding our concerns about the VIPD holding cells in St.
Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix. Our concerns included: 1) lack
of policies or procedures for medical and mental health services
for detainees; 2) presence of suicide hazards in the cells; 3)
lack of procedures for the provision of food and necessary
medication to detainees; 4) lack of functional fire control
systems; 5) failure to provide for the safety and security of
detainees; and 6) lack of adequate policies or procedures for the
detention of juveniles. We provided you with technical
assistance and sample policies and procedures regarding the
various areas of concern in our October 2004 letter, which was
re-sent to Attorney King with enclosures, per his request, on
March 31, 2005. We recommend VIPD develop policies and
procedures consistent with our recommendations to ensure the
safety of all detainees.
V.

MISCONDUCT INVESTIGATIONS
The VIPD should develop and implement a centralized, formal,
structured and consistent system for receiving and
investigating complaints of police misconduct.
A.

Investigation of Citizen Complaints

An open, fair and impartial process for receiving and
investigating citizen complaints serves several important

- 15 
purposes. An appropriate citizen complaint procedure ensures
officer accountability and supervision, deters misconduct, and
helps maintain good community relations, increasing public
confidence in, and respect for, the VIPD. Improving the current
procedure for handling citizen complaints would maximize these
goals.
1.

Complaint Forms

Complaints may be made at an IAU office or any of the
various zones located throughout the Virgin Islands.6 However,
citizen complaint forms are inconsistently used. For example,
the IAU SOP identifies three forms related to a citizen
complaint: 1) complaint form (Form #91-2); 2) confirmation of
complaint form (Form #91-3); and 3) termination of complaint form
(Form #91-4). Although the VIPD Police Manual requires a
supervisor to enter a complaint on an “appropriate form” based on
a complainant’s recitation of the facts, a specific complaint
form is not identified in the VIPD Police Manual. In fact, we
understand that the zones use arrest reports, also known as 1As,
instead of complaint forms to memorialize complaint information.
The IAU SOP’s citizen complaint forms are inadequate and
inconsistent with generally accepted police practices. For
example, the forms include an “Options” section, which appears to
provide complainants with a choice between two procedural routes
for their complaints. The first option allows for the
possibility of, but does not require, an investigation regarding
the complaint. The complaint form notifies complainants that, if
a hearing is conducted under the first option, they will be
subjected to questioning by the Chief of Police, an investigator
and a union representative. However, there is no similar
discussion of the accused officer’s obligations. The second
option does not include an investigation requirement and simply
states that the officer can be admonished verbally.
We recommend that VIPD citizen complaint policy be revised
to require an investigation of every complaint. The appropriate
command staff, rather than the complainant, should determine the
appropriate action to be taken. The forms should be revised to
eliminate the “options” section from the complaint forms. The
forms should state that an investigation will be conducted, that
the complainant will be notified of the results of the

6


According to the VIPD organizational chart, there are
seven zones: St. Croix has zones A, B, and C; St. Thomas has
zones A, B, and C, and St. John has zone D.

- 16 
investigation and that the complainant’s cooperation is requested
throughout the investigation.
We recommend the elimination of the “Termination of
Complaint” form. The current complaint process provides that a
complaint can be terminated, without an investigation, if the
complainant “declares” the following: “I am satisfied with the
manner in which this complaint was handled and do hereby consider
this matter resolved.” It is inappropriate for a complaint to be
unilaterally terminated by the complainant without an
investigation. We recommend that at the conclusion of each
investigation, all relevant parties, including the complainant,
receive a letter setting forth the name of the complainant, the
unique control number, the date of the incident, the name of the
officer(s) involved, the key facts of the complaint, and the
final disposition of the complaint. If sustained, the letter
should indicate whether remedial actions will be or have been
taken.
The letter advising the citizen of the resolution of the
complaint should be drafted by the supervisor conducting the
investigation and then reviewed and approved by the appropriate
chain of command. If any individual in the chain of command
review disagrees with the previous reviewer’s findings and/or
recommendations, the reason for such modification should be in
writing and kept with the original recommendation in the
complaint file, and, after final review and approval, the letter
to the complainant should be modified accordingly. Every
misconduct complaint should begin with a citizen complaint form,
and end with a letter, each document reflecting the same control
number for ease of reference and later review, if any.
2.

Complaint Intake

The VIPD’s current policies and procedures regarding
complaint intake are located in the VIPD Police Manual and the
IAU SOP. These two policies are inconsistent. For example, the
IAU SOP requires the acceptance of anonymous complaints, but the
VIPD Police Manual does not. The VIPD Manual requires complaints
to be referred to a supervisor, but the IAU SOP does not. The
VIPD Manual, unlike the IAU SOP, appears to require supervisors
to complete complaint forms based on a complainants’ “recitation”
of the facts, instead of allowing complainants to complete the
form themselves.
There should be one comprehensive policy for complaint
intake. That policy should be consistent in the VIPD Police
Manual, the IAU SOP, and all other relevant documents. We

- 17 
recommend revision to the VIPD policy to provide clear procedures
regarding the intake of any complaint, including anonymous and
confidential complaints, against a VIPD officer. This policy
should include instructions to an officer for taking a complaint
and prompt delivery to a supervisor.
A complaint process should allow unfettered ability to make
complaints. The availability of a uniform complaint form and
information about the complaint process should be prominently
posted at each police station, zone, VIPD headquarters, other
public facilities, and in locations which permit the forms to be
obtained without a specific request by a citizen or a requirement
that the complaint be recited to a supervisor.
3.

Centralized Investigation Assignments

Neither the VIPD manuals nor the IAU SOP establish a system
or procedure for tracking all complaints. There is no
centralized numbering and tracking system for all incoming
complaints, whether they are received by the zones or the IAUs.
There is no agency or individual responsible for numbering,
tracking and maintaining oversight of all complaints. Although
the IAU SOP states that all complaints that are received at the
IAU receive a tracking number, the IAU receives only a portion of
all complaints. Complaints that are investigated by the zones do
not necessarily receive a tracking number and, if they do, they
may be duplicative of IAU tracking numbers.7
The Police Manual and the IAU SOP provide inconsistent and
limited guidance for determining which complaints should be
investigated by the zones and which should be investigated by the
IAU. For example, the VIPD Police Manual provides that the zones
investigate complaints of unnecessary use of force. (VIPD Police
Manual Ch. 8.4.2). However, the IAU SOP provides that the IAU
investigates complaints of unlawful uses of force and brutality.
(IAU SOP Ch. 3.2).
We recommend that the VIPD institute a centralized numbering
and tracking system for all complaints, regardless of the nature
of the complaint, the seriousness of the allegation, or the
location where or to whom the complaint is made. The VIPD policy
should provide that every complaint receive a tracking number as
soon as possible. A centralized numbering system should be
maintained by the IAU for all complaints.

7


During our investigation, we received documents
regarding different complaint files with the same file numbers.

- 18 
We recommend that the IAU be designated the primary and
centralized agency to determine whether the investigation will be
assigned to the zone, retained by the IAU, or referred for
possible criminal investigation. If IAU refers a complaint to a
zone, copies of all documents, findings, and recommendations
should be immediately forwarded to the IAU for tracking and
monitoring.8 The policy should specify a standard procedure for
notifying the Police Commissioner, or his or her designee, of
complaints soon as possible. For complaints alleging the
excessive use of force or violation of a person’s constitutional
rights, the Police Commissioner should be notified no less than
twenty-four hours after receipt of a complaint.
4.

Investigations and Referrals

VIPD does not have a consistent policy for conducting
complaint investigations. The VIPD Police Manual does not
provide any guidance to zone investigators. Although the IAU SOP
provides limited guidance on conducting a complaint investigation
to IAU investigators, it is outdated and inconsistent with
accepted police practices. For example, in a stark departure
from generally accepted law enforcement practices, the IAU SOP
disposition categories are contingent upon whether the
complainant suffers harm.9 The IAU SOP does not provide clear
guidance regarding the distinction between criminal and
administrative investigations and the requisite procedural and
legal protections should there be potential criminal misconduct.
The IAU SOP appears to presume that if there is a criminal
investigation, there cannot be a parallel administrative
investigation. The VIPD Police Manual provides that an
administrative investigation will be conducted only if the
criminal proceedings are dismissed.
We recommend that the VIPD adopt a single policy concerning
the investigation of misconduct complaints, regardless of whether

8


During our investigation, we asked for copies of
several IAU investigation files. However, VIPD was unable to
locate these files at IAU because the investigations were
conducted at the zones. The citizen complaint policy should
provide for clear document retention policies and for IAU’s
central file to be regularly updated and supplemented.
9


The disposition categories are: proper conduct (no
harm); improper conduct (harm); policy failure (harm);
insufficient evidence; unfounded complaint; and partially
sustained.

- 19 
the investigation is conducted by the IAU or a zone. The VIPD
policy and training should include investigative and interview
techniques, including examining and interrogating accused
officers and other witnesses; identifying misconduct even if it
is not specifically named in the complaint; the factors to
consider when evaluating complainant or witness credibility; the
directive that officer and witness statements be weighed equally;
and preponderance of the evidence as the appropriate burden of
proof. We recommend that the VIPD policy require that all
interviews be mechanically recorded using an audio or video tape.
We recommend that the categories of investigation
disposition should not be conditioned on whether the complainant
suffered harm. Harm can include physical or psychological harm,
or violation of a person’s civil rights, for example. An officer
may have engaged in improper conduct even though the complainant
did not suffer harm. Similarly, whether a policy failure
occurred should not be contingent on whether the complainant
suffered harm. Accordingly, we recommend VIPD revise its
policies to require that the investigative findings include
whether: 1) the police action was in compliance with policy,
training and legal standards, regardless of whether the
complainant suffered harm; 2) the incident involved misconduct by
any officer; 3) the use of different tactics should or could have
been employed; 4) the incident indicates a need for additional
training, counseling or other non-disciplinary corrective
measures; and 5) the incident suggests that VIPD should revise
its policies, training, or tactics.
We recommend that the policy provide clear guidance to all
investigators regarding the procedures for handling criminal
misconduct allegations, referring them to the Virgin Islands
Attorney General’s Office or other appropriate agency for
possible criminal prosecution, and the entity or individual that
should make the determination of whether the complaint be
investigated criminally. We recommend that the policy be revised
to require the completion of an administrative investigation,
irrespective of the initiation or outcome of criminal
proceedings.
We recommend that the policies and procedures clarify the
rights of officers who may be the subject of a misconduct
investigation. During an administrative investigation, officers
suspected of potentially criminal misconduct should be informed
of their rights under Miranda v. State of Arizona, 384 U.S. 436
(1966), before questioning, including their rights against selfincrimination and to have counsel present during questioning.
The VIPD policy should provide clear guidance to investigators

- 20 
regarding the procedures for when and how to compel statements
from officers for the purposes of an administrative investigation
in conformance with Garrity v. New Jersey, 385 U.S. 493 (1967).
B.

Internal Affairs Unit:

Structure and Organization

The internal affairs component of a law enforcement agency
safeguards the integrity of the department and its officers. It
should seek to ensure that those who enforce the law will
themselves follow the law, as well as maintain an acceptable
level of professionalism. The VIPD should acknowledge and
support the integral role an internal affairs unit serves by
ensuring that the IAU be an autonomous and objective component of
the police department, and that it is comprised of well-trained
personnel who are staffed at adequate levels throughout the
various districts.
1.

Organization and Responsibilities

The IAU SOP states that there are three responsibilities of
the IAU: applicant screening; internal investigations; and labor
relations. Not only does the IAU SOP fail to prioritize these
responsibilities, but it also fails to provide any standards or
procedures with respect to conducting applicant screening. The
investigating officer apparently has complete discretion to
determine the suitability of VIPD applicants.
We recommend the VIPD establish clear standards and
structure for the IAU to follow for screening VIPD applicants.
The policy should provide objective standards by which VIPD
applicants will be reviewed and accepted, including, the effect,
if any, of a prior criminal history on the suitability of an
applicant.
We recommend that someone other than the IAU Director serve
as the labor relations specialist. It is critical for the IAU
and its Director to have autonomy, objectivity and impartiality.
The role of a “labor relations specialist” places the Director in
potential conflicts of interest. For example, because contract
negotiations and interpretation include issues directly related
to the IAU (e.g., misconduct complaints and investigations), the
Director of the IAU may be negotiating with the union, as the
labor relations specialist, regarding pending misconduct
penalties that s/he would have to impose as the IAU Director. We
recommend that an independent person outside of the IAU be
designated to serve in this capacity.

- 21 
2.

Staffing and Training

The VIPD has no policy establishing selection criteria for
IAU positions, nor are there recruiting or training procedures.
Currently, the VIPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau oversees two IAUs,
which are comprised of different ranking supervisors and
inconsistent staffing levels. For example, the St. Thomas/St.
John IAU supervisor is a Sergeant, but the St. Croix IAU
supervisor is a Corporal. The St. Thomas/St. John IAU’s
investigators are a Corporal and police officer, but the St.
Croix IAU’s investigators are a Corporal and two “agents.” The
IAU SOP does not provide an explanation for the different
staffing levels or the distinction between an “agent
investigator” and “police officer investigator.”
We recommend that the VIPD develop a policy regarding
selection criteria for IAU personnel, including recruiting and
training procedures. An IAU component must be appropriately
staffed and trained to handle investigative and administrative
responsibilities. In selecting IAU personnel, their disciplinary
histories must be taken into account to ensure that only officers
with the highest ethical standards serve as investigators. IAU
investigators should not be selected to investigate a particular
matter if they had any involvement in the incident under review
or whose relationship with an officer in question would create an
appearance of bias or impropriety. The VIPD should offer
incentives to encourage qualified officers to apply for IAU
positions.
We recommend that the Districts for St. Thomas/St. John and
St. Croix maintain consistent staffing, or, at least, require the
equivalent rank for supervisory staff.
VI.

DISCIPLINE
The VIPD should develop and implement a formal, structured
and consistent system for determining and imposing
discipline.

Several of the areas of concern regarding the VIPD
disciplinary system are directly related to the deficiencies in
investigative procedures. For example, because there is no
centralized tracking, it is possible for zone commanders to use
their discretion to designate a charge against an officer as
“minor” and summarily impose a verbal reprimand as the sole
disciplinary action before the Deputy Chief of Police or the IAU
ever learns about the complaint. (Chapter 8.3.5).

- 22 
We are concerned with the VIPD’s short 50-day statute of
limitations for instituting disciplinary action. Current VIPD
policy requires disciplinary action to be instituted within 50
days from the date the alleged violation was committed or becomes
known or should have become known to the department. No
disciplinary action may be instituted after ninety (90) days
following the alleged infraction. Based on our preliminary
review of citizen complaint investigations, a number of complaint
investigations may not have been thoroughly completed because of
this short statute of limitations period. We recommend the VIPD
explore its options to extend this statute of limitations period.
Irrespective of the short statute of limitations period, VIPD’s
failure to complete investigations precludes the department from
identifying potential system-wide issues, providing corrective
training, and revising policies, as necessary. VIPD policy
should identify clear time periods by which the various steps of
a complaint adjudication process should be completed, from
complaint receipt to the imposition of discipline, if any.
Absent exigent circumstances, extensions should not be granted
without the Police Commissioner’s written approval and notice to
the complainant. In the limited circumstances when an extension
is necessary, appropriate tolling provisions should be outlined
in the policy.
We recommend that the VIPD policy be revised so that no
penalties, including verbal reprimands and counseling, be imposed
without final authorization by the appropriate chain of command.
The policy should include review and approval of any discipline
by the chain of command and, ultimately, the Police Commissioner,
before any discipline is imposed.
VII. SUPERVISORY OVERSIGHT
VIPD command staff should examine and review officer conduct
on a regular basis as a proactive measure to minimize and
detect misconduct, and to identify training and policy
issues.
A.

Risk Assessment and Management

There is a lack of structured and formal oversight of VIPD
officers by command staff. There do not appear to be regular
review procedures formalized in policy. To the contrary, review
of officer activity appears to be informal and ad hoc.
We recommend that the VIPD implement policies and procedures
for VIPD supervisors to routinely review all aspects of VIPD
officer conduct, including a review of: 1) all uses of force, as

- 23 
set forth above; 2) probable cause for arrests and the
appropriateness of charges filed; and 3) reasonable suspicion for
stops and searches that do not result in an arrest.
We recommend that VIPD policy require supervisors to review
and approve all arrest reports and searches and seizures, and to
record their approval on the arrest or incident reports by
handwritten or electronic signature. We recommend that the
Police Commissioner, or his or her designee who will directly
report to the Police Commissioner, meet annually with every VIPD
officer to discuss his or her complaint history, if any, and to
discuss any problems or concerns officers may have concerning the
department.
B.

Early Warning System

The VIPD does not have, but should adopt, a risk assessment
system or an Early Warning System (“EWS”) as an integral part of
its risk management program. The VIPD can develop an EWS that is
appropriate and applicable to its needs and size. Whether paperbased or computer-based, even a simple EWS would provide a useful
assessment of each officer’s conduct as well as the department as
a law enforcement agency. We recommend that the VIPD implement
policies and procedures to collect data on individual officers
for the purpose of maintaining, integrating, and retrieving
information necessary for effective supervision and management of
VIPD personnel. The EWS should contain information on all
investigations and complaints, including non-sustained complaints
and complaints prior to final disposition, discipline and other
corrective actions, uses of force, arrests and charges, searches
and seizures, service calls, training, awards and commendations,
sick leave, civil lawsuits and other items relevant to an
officer’s conduct. The VIPD can then use this data regularly and
proactively to promote best professional police practices;
improve accountability and management; manage the risk of police
misconduct and potential liability; and evaluate and audit the
performance of officers and units on a regular basis. We
recommend that the VIPD require supervisors, including command
staff, to review this data for every officer they supervise on a
regular, predetermined basis, such as every quarter.
The policy implementing these recommendations should also
establish guidelines regarding specific events that will trigger
an additional supervisory review, such as a specific number of
uses of force or citizen complaints within a discrete period.
Once an officer has been selected for this additional review, a
report should be prepared that details all use of force reports,
formal and informal complaints, calls for service, sick leave,

- 24 
counseling reports, civil lawsuits, and commendations pertaining
to the officer within the past ten years. The officer’s
immediate supervisor and command staff should then meet to
discuss the report and determine if any corrective action is
warranted. The supervisor’s and command staff’s recommendations
should then be forwarded to the Police Commissioner for his or
her review and implementation. The effectiveness of the
implemented recommendations should be determined by monitoring
the officer and drafting written reports on the officer’s conduct
on a monthly basis. Both the supervisory recommendations and the
written monthly report should be included in the officer’s file.
We recommend that the VIPD consider utilizing peer reviews
of the information contained in the reports by comparing
complaints, use of force reports, and other pertinent information
about a particular officer with similar information from other
officers on the same patrol team or shift. In addition, the
policy should provide explicit guidance to supervisory officers
reviewing reports to ensure that patterns of possible misconduct
are identified, analyzed and addressed properly by command staff.
The aim of this process is to give supervisors valuable
information that, if received early, could identify potential
problem officers before misconduct actually develops.
VIII.

OFFICER TRAINING
The VIPD should develop comprehensive training programs for
new and experienced VIPD officers.
A.

Police Academy Training

Based on our investigation and discussions with the Director
of Training, there are no standard curricula or lesson plans for
training provided to new recruits.10 The VIPD’s Recruit Rules
and Procedures Manual (“Recruit Manual”) does not contain any
substantive information regarding police tactics, practices,
procedures or protocol. The content of each subject matter area
is left to the discretion of the instructor. There are no
standards for selection of instructors, except that we were told
that Assistant Attorneys General are requested to provide
instruction on legal matters, such as search and seizure.

10


VIPD recruits attend a 26-week academy training along
with other territorial law enforcement agencies, including the
Territorial Marshals, Department of Planning and Natural
Resources, and the Taxi Commission.

- 25 
Moreover, we understand that there is no standardized or
formalized written examination that each recruit must pass. It
is our understanding that each instructor creates his or her own
test to determine the recruits’ proficiency in the relevant
subject matter area.
We recommend that the VIPD develop standardized curricula,
lesson plans, and written tests for each section of a recruit’s
training at the police academy, including, but not limited to,
use of force, Fourth Amendment and other constitutional
requirements. This training should also include role-playing and
interactive exercises regarding situational ethical and use of
force scenarios, including de-escalation techniques, cultural
diversity and community policing. The exercises should include
training on interactions with persons from different racial,
ethnic, and religious groups, persons of the opposite sex,
persons of different sexual orientations, and persons with
disabilities. The curricula and lesson plans should incorporate
comprehensive and updated police practices and be approved by
legal counsel and the Police Commissioner. There should be an
approved, standardized and written examination at the end of the
academy to measure an acceptable level of proficiency and
competency in all areas covered by the training. Recruits should
be required to pass the examination to become a VIPD officer. We
recommend that all instructors receive certification to serve as
instructors. This certification can be obtained through programs
and seminars offered by various certifying agencies throughout
the United States.
B.

Field Training

A structured field training program is essential for
training new recruits. Field training for new officers is an
integral component of any comprehensive officer training program,
and minimizes the risk of officers engaging in problematic
behaviors, including the use of excessive force.
Although the VIPD has a number of officers that are
designated as Field Training Officers (“FTOs”), there is no
policy, standard or procedure for selecting, training, or
evaluating an FTO. FTOs are selected by the Territorial Chief.
There are no written standards for an officer to qualify or to be
selected as an FTO. It is our understanding that after
graduation from the police academy, new recruits are assigned to
an FTO for a probationary year. Although new recruits accompany
an FTO on patrol, there is no structured field training program.
We recommend that the VIPD develop and implement a field

- 26 
training program. The field training program should utilize
qualified FTOs to supervise and train new VIPD officers. FTOs
should have at least three years experience on the VIPD.
Additionally, FTO instructors should have completed a course on
how to serve in that capacity. An FTO candidate’s experience,
complaint history and interpersonal skills should be considered
as selection criteria. We recommend that the VIPD take measures
to recruit and train qualified FTOs, including providing
incentives to current officers to encourage them to apply to
become FTOs. The VIPD should develop and implement a mechanism
for evaluating FTOs and for removing FTOs who fail to perform
adequately, and whose actions while serving as FTOs would have
disqualified them from selection.
C.

In-Service Training

In addition to the absence of any formal training for new
recruits after the police academy, VIPD does not have a
structured training program for experienced officers.
We recommend that the VIPD develop and implement an inservice training program for all officers. Consistent with most
police departments throughout the country, VIPD should provide
in-service training that includes a minimum of 40 hours per year
of training (excluding firearms re-qualification) on police
topics, such as: use of force, firearms, defensive tactics,
policies and procedures, current legal issues or other issues
that are essential to police work, searches and seizures, legal
developments and police integrity. The VIPD in-service training
should include de-escalation techniques for interactions with
persons with mental illness and those who may be under the
influence of drugs or alcohol. We recommend that officers
receive firearms training biannually for all service weapons used
by VIPD officers. All VIPD personnel should receive training on
the new complaint policy and procedures. We recommend that
training be conducted by instructors who have been trained and
certified to be instructors, and who are competent in the subject
matter.
We note that one potential resource for the VIPD in
establishing and improving in-service and field training officer
programs may be the longstanding training and grant programs
administered by other components of the Department of Justice,
such as the Office of Justice Programs. While these programs are
completely separate and independent of the Civil Rights
Division’s investigations, we would be pleased to provide you

- 27 
with contact information for exploring the possibility of such
assistance.
IX.	 CONCLUSION
We strongly urge the VIPD to adopt these technical
assistance recommendations as it revises its policies and
procedures. We look forward to working with you and the VIPD as
our investigation proceeds. If you have any questions, please do
not hesitate to contact me at (202)514-6255, Je Yon Jung at
(202)305-1457 or Michael Frazier at (202)307-2715.

Sincerely,
/s/ Shanetta Y. Cutlar

Shanetta Y. Cutlar
Chief
Special Litigation Section
cc: 	 Anthony Jenkins
United States Attorney
for the Virgin Islands

 

 

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