St. John Watch by VIPD Commissioner Elton Lewis

In today’s organizational environments there is a new kind of benefit or perk that is beginning to outweigh compensation and even health benefits. It is called learning, training and development. It is natural that most people want to excel, want to be on a continuous improvement path and embrace what is considered life-long learning. That is exactly what the Virgin Islands Police Department is creating today.

There are a many ways that training and learning benefits the Department. A few of those are creating a more enthusiastic work environment, facilitating retention and increasing community satisfaction. Many of these outcomes are tied together, so when the VIPD achieves one, oftentimes the others fall into place.

The decision to make training a priority for the VIPD was a result of numerous discussions with the rank and file of the police department as well as discussions with citizens about their concerns with the department. In these discussions, most people expressed dissatisfaction with the officers’ performance, which many attributed to a lack of training. Some questioned the caliber of training the officers were receiving and felt that with a proper education program, these problems would be alleviated. In fact, I have recently received a letter from an attorney expressing concern and dismay at the poor testimony of police officers in court hearings. The VIPD is now requiring Courtroom Testimony training.

Having been a training instructor at the police academy, I know and appreciate the importance of police training. Once qualified police applicants are selected, the Department must ensure that they possess the requisite knowledge and skills to perform police work, and that training must continue throughout the officer’s career through in-service training. This is integral to the VIPD’s continuous improvement process.

Police training consists of three phases: basic training, field officer training, and in-service training. Basic training is just basic level of competency before entering into police work. Field officer training is that training program to supplement basic training, reinforce what was taught in basic training. In-service training keeps veteran officers abreast of new and innovative procedures and techniques in police work. In future articles we can talk about more specialized training.

The Virgin Islands Police Department has adopted high training standards. However, it is important that the officers apply what they have learned. As the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to the trough, but you can’t make him drink.”

Here’s a sample of some of the programs offered: Domestic Violence Training, Anti-Corruption & Integrity Awareness, At-Scene Crash Investigation, Civil Rights & Use of Force, Courtroom Testimony Training, Customer Service, Emergency Service Certification, Homicide Investigation, Firearms Transition Training, Financial Management, International Money Laundering, Interview and Interrogation, Intoxilizer Operators Course, Judgmental Shooting, Leader Development, Patrol Investigative Techniques, Physical Fitness, Traffic, Supervision, Window Tint Meter Operator, Weapons of Mass Destruction and Victim Violence Sex Offense. Understand that this just touches the surface.

The Virgin Islands Police Department has a moral and ethical obligation to the community we serve to provide the very best possible services, and to this end training remains a high priority for the department. Simply put, my vision of VIPD training is: Superior performance for the public we serve, significantly increasing customer service, retention of the best of the best members of the rank and file, improving quality, increasing the ability to respond to change, energizing a committed VIPD, engaging in the community and exceeding the demands of the public.

I believe that in order to implement a successful training program, the VIPD leadership and management must be committed, proactive, and supportive, both in attitude and in action. The rewards for the VIPD, the individual sworn officer and civilian and the citizens of the Virgin Islands are great.

Successful training im-proves reliability, morale, retention, efficiency, productivity and overall performance for the community. My passion is helping the VIPD attain, achieve and become all that they aspire to being, doing and having. I want the VIPD to succeed. I believe training, knowledge and education is the path to the best Virgin Islands Police Department ever.

Ultimately, learning is up to each individual – it’s not something I or my management team can require. The essence of a successful VIPD is its capacity to raise the aspirations of each police officer and civilian. These are the people whose contributions and ongoing development become the life-blood of performance gains and a higher quality of life in the Virgin Islands. Training and learning is the vehicle that will allow the VIPD to attain those lofty goals.