What Message Are We Sending?

To the Editor:

We’ve read testimony from last Monday’s meeting at the Legislature Building that the V.I. Police Department is suffering from low morale. The residents of St John can certainly empathize with that feeling: we also are in deep despair.

We are horrified by the island’s unsolved crime rate, its unregulated and perilous vehicular offenses, and by the arbitrary and exceedingly rude treatment by police officers of both locals and visitors. Senator Liston Davis may be concerned about the physical appearance of our officers. But we are more concerned with the hostility of officers who appear to loathe outsiders and who go out of their way to harass citizens over minor issues while major crimes go unattended.

We’ve seen what appears to be an escalating battle between the police and youth of our island: within the past month, a young boy was shot and killed, and in a separate incident a St. John police officer was murdered by a youth while on St Thomas. We anxiously await news of whatever  investigations may be ongoing. It is because of this tension that I am appalled by an occurrence in Cruz Bay last Monday evening.

An acquaintance who spends winters on St. John was taking his evening walk and, at about 8:30 as he approached Nature’s Nook he saw two local young men calling across to each other, one on each side of the road. They appeared to be joking with each other, my friend says. A police car pulled up and a female officer got out to speak to one of the boys. Then the male officer got out carrying an assault rifle which was aimed at the second boy. The youths scrambled back toward the National Park dock and ran, and the police car drove away.

Why was a show of deadly force needed in a simple social confrontation? What message are the police sending to our youth? What message are we as an island sending to the rest of the world?

No wonder we are demoralized!

Name Witheld by Request