Top officials at the Virgin Islands Police Department have assured a federal judge they can continue to uphold the standards achieved when the court declared they reached compliance in an 11-year-old use-of-force case.
The statement is expected to be tested later this month when a scheduled status hearing takes place in District Court.
Since a software infection of computers and laptops at the police department became public in June, little has been said about the extent of the problem. A more complete disclosure was made in a federal court filing made prior to an Aug. 29 hearing before District Court Judge Curtis Gomez.
In comments made since then both the new police commissioner appointed by Gov. Albert Bryan and the former commissioner admitted the malware infection could affect the department’s ability to stay the course with compliance.
The judge declared the department reached substantial compliance in late December.
“It did affect our risk management system, but the system is up and running,” said former Police Commissioner Jason Marsh. Marsh is now Deputy Commissioner leading the Office of Professional Standards. That change made it harder for authorities to submit data and reports to court-appointed independent monitors.
Last week police officials representing both the U.S. Justice Department and the local government asked the court to grant more time for the monitors to submit their quarterly compliance reports. Gomez granted the request Thursday.
Newly named Police Commissioner Trevor Velinor said an effective solution to the problem – identified as ransomware – has to be reached quickly.
“This can have an impact on our compliance,” Velinor said.
In July police compliance officials told the court the ransomware attack encrypted emails, uploaded documents, and different devices used by the police department. But, they said, the matter is being addressed.
“A new centralized version … is being installed for the territory. Internal Affairs staff is currently working on configuring all users in the system.”
Once the software swap is completed, officials told the court that efforts will be made to prevent future attacks.
Police met the terms of a court-ordered consent decree in late 2018 after eight years. If the department can continue to meet all terms spelled out in the decree, the matter will be declared resolved.
Authorities at the Justice Department commended the Virgin Islands Police Department for completing the court ordered action plan shortly after Gomez declared substantial compliance.
“The consent decree was entered in 2009 to address allegations of a pattern or practice of uses of force by VIPD officers that deprived persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or the laws of the United States. Pursuant to the consent decree, VIPD reviewed and revised its use of force policies, improved force investigations, modified its citizen complaint process, updated its risk management system, and provided more training to its officers. VIPD also worked closely with a court-appointed Independent Monitoring Team to ensure full implementation of the consent decree,” Justice officials said in a statement issued Dec. 20, 2018.