St. John Watch By VIPD Comm. Elton Lewis

My Job as Police Commissioner

The Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) is divided into two sections, operations and administration. It is no different than any corporation or organization. You have a chain of command, you have leadership at all levels and there is one person at the top who sets the tone for strategic performance delegating responsibilities to attain the projected results. The CEO has a COO who makes the whole organization move smoothly and profitably.

As the Police Commissioner I oversee the entire organization, set the tone of leadership, model the desired culture and develop and champion strategic direction. However, making it happen operationally on a daily basis belongs to the Territorial Chief of Police, Deputy Chiefs, Captains, Lieutenants, Sergeants, Corporals Police Officers and the civilians within the organization.

The day-to-day operations, the street business of policing, performance, discipline, productivity, personal and team effectiveness are all the responsibility and accountability of the Territorial Chief of Police, the operational side of the house. The Territorial Chief of Police’s role is mostly operational in nature. A Commissioner’s role, on the other hand, is primarily strategic in nature.

In general the Commissioner must know, understand and facilitate setting the culture of the VIPD where possible and where not limited by politics. I’ve learned that people are not afraid of change. It is the unknown that brings about fear. Through the strategic planning process, improved communications and organizational development a Commissioner turns the unknown into knowledge, advocacy, acceptance and finally the desired change.

One of the most important responsibilities of a Commissioner is to expand the leadership role beyond the people that are paid to serve and protect. This leadership position must proactively, assertively and positively expand the role to the people who pay the VIPD. A Commissioner must integrate the public who pays the VIPD into just about every aspect of policing. Fund raising and community relations are as vital to being a Police Commissioner as reducing crime, solving murders and enforcing the law.

Another critical part of being a Commissioner is grooming the best and creating a leadership succession strategy. Anyone taking on this hefty position must believe in education and training. It is the role of a Commissioner to nurture and build a learning organization.

Networking with the community is imperative for me as Police Commissioner to experience success. From my perspective one of the top three roles of a Commissioner is setting a new standard of performance. It is also a Commissioner’s biggest challenge. If anything keeps me up at night it is this. Integral to any Commissioner’s legacy must be the adoption of new and higher standards of performance.

A Commissioner can not do business by sitting in his or her office. A Commissioner must touch the people on a daily basis to assure the needs of the public are heard, understood and acted upon. Learning, listening and translating those needs into measurable action or incorporating the changes needed into the Strategic Plan is right at the top of the list of responsibilities. My primary role is to provide honest communication and tell everything that is known without jeopardizing any investigation or placing undo risk on the victim and victim’s family. It is the Commissioner’s job to create the vision, the map, and the blueprint.

Commissionership means providing hope. A Police Commissioner must look and act likes the solution, not the problem. When it gets down to the bottom-line a Police Commissioner is the primary change agent.

In closing, a Police Commissioner’s job is to ask the bigger questions and find ways to effectively and efficiently create change, be courageous in making decisions, translating them into action and taking the risks necessary to achieve extraordinary results, live with purpose and make a difference 24/7.

My commitment, dedication, passion and loyalty are to the Virgin Islands citizens 24/7. 24/7 isn’t a job, it isn’t an ad. 24/7 is a promise and it is a way of life for this Police Commissioner.