Police Commissioners - In Memoriam
Municipal Police Department
The Organic Act of June 22, 1936, Section 2, divided the United States Virgin Islands into two municipalities, namely, the Municipality of Saint Croix and the Municipality of Saint Thomas and Saint John. Each municipality was a separate and distinct legal entity with the power ''to demand the fulfillment of obligations under the law and to defend and prosecute all actions at law.'' Consequently, each municipality had a law enforcement agency that included the police and prison system, which was supervised by a director.
The Police and Prison Department of the Municipality of St. Croix was divided into the Christiansted Branch and the Frederiksted Branch. The Police and Prison Department of the Municipality of St. Thomas and St. John was divided into the St. Thomas Branch and the St. John Branch.
Even though the departments were independent of each other, and operated under separate budgets and leadership, their goals, objectives, and responsibilities were similar. The mission of both departments was the protection of life and property and the preservation of the public peace. Some of the responsibilities were the administration of jails and prisons and detention houses; and the administration, supervision, and enforcement of the laws and regulations covering the ownership, operation and control of motor vehicles. The following is a list of some of the other responsibilities:
- To issue special dance licenses.
- To record bounty payments for mongooses.
- To issue permits for the purchasing of poisons.
- To license dangerous weapons including firearms.
- To check on passengers from planes and vessels for the enforcement of the Communicable Disease Ordinance.
- To register and license all dogs, and to destroy all unlicensed and stray dogs.
- To act as guard at public dances and entertainments.
- To serve writ of Executions and Attachments.
- To issue permits for sale of alcoholic beverages.
The Virgin Islands Department of Public Safety
As a result of the sweeping changes in the Revised Organic Act of 1954, the Governor of the Virgin Islands, within one year from date of approval of the Act, was required to ''reorganize and consolidate the existing executive departments, bureaus, independent boards, agencies, authorities, commissions, and other instrumentalities of the Government of the Virgin Islands or of the municipal governments into not more than nine departments exclusive of such independent bodies whose existence may be required by Federal law for participation in Federal programs.''
It also required ''that the head of each executive department so constituted shall be designated as the Commissioner thereof, and that the Commissioner of Finance shall be bonded and that no other department, bureau, independent board, agency, authority, commission, or other instrumentality shall be created, organized, or established by the governor or by the Legislature, without the prior approval of the Secretary of the Interior unless required by Federal Law for participation in Federal programs...''
In keeping with this directive the Governor of the Virgin Islands on July 21, 1955, through executive Order No. 9, established the Department of Public Safety, as an executive department. He further declared that there shall be at the head of the department a Commissioner of Public Safety and that within the department there shall be ''two divisions which shall be known as the Police Division and the Fire Division.'' Further, that a chief officer shall be designated to head each Division and shall perform such functions as the Commissioner may prescribe.
The Police Division was charged with enforcing the laws relating to public safety and ''to administer a police system providing police services for the protection of persons and property within the jurisdiction of the Virgin Islands; to administer jails, prisons and detention houses; to administer, supervise, and enforce the regulation and laws governing the ownership, operation and control of motor vehicles, and to direct and control traffic, and to supervise and enforce laws relating to the same; to supervise and administer a Civilian Defense Program; to coordinate, supervise and direct the Home Guard; to develop cooperation with the President and heads of the Armed Forces...
With the implementation of Executive Order No. 9, the following organizations or agencies made up the Virgin Islands Department of Public Safety:
- Police Force
- Home Guards
- Fire Division
- Civil Defense
- Fish and Wildlife
- Corrections (Jails and Prisons)
Virgin Islands Police Department
In 1967, Civil Defense was transferred from the Virgin Islands Department of Public Safety to the Office of the Governor. This agency was renamed the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) and is presently under the Office of the Adjutant General of the Virgin Islands National Guard.
Act No. 2238, approved June 4, 1968, established a Department of Conservation and Cultural Affairs. The Fish and Wildlife agency was then transferred from the Virgin Islands Department of Public Safety to that Department.
On October 28, 1977, Act No. 4054, establishing Bureau of Corrections within the Office of the Governor became law. The effective date of the Act was January 1, 1978. This act transferred the responsibility for the maintenance, supervision and administration of the jails and prison system within the Virgin Islands to the Bureau of Corrections. This successful transfer also prompted the move to transfer the fire services from under the Department of Public Safety to the Office of the Governor.
Subsequently, Act No. 4206, Bill No. 7845, approved September 11, 1978 and effective January 1, 1979, transferred the Fire Division to the Office of the Governor. All the powers, duties and responsibilities for fire prevention and control were transferred to the Fire Services within the Office of the Governor.
By 1980, five of the six previous agencies under the Department of Public Safety had been transferred to other Departments or under the Office of the Governor. The remaining organization was the Home Guards which was later renamed the Virgin Islands Police Auxiliary through Act No.4115, approved on March 21, 1978.
The transfer of those agencies not directly related to the police function prompted the move to rename the V. I. Department of Public Safety to the U. S. Virgin Islands Police Department. This was accomplished through Act No. 4964, approved June 15, 1984, and effective January 1, 1985.
On August 14, 1987, the Honorable Alexander A. Farrelly, Governor, appointed Milton A. Frett Commissioner. Commissioner Frett was a trailblazer in the true sense of the word. He introduced alternative methods of policing that have resulted in many ''firsts'' and an innovation never experienced before in the history of the V. I. Police Department. Some of these historical 'firsts' were:
- Establishment of a Special Operations Bureau
- Establishment of an Interpol Telecommunication Network
- Establishment of a Bureau of Narcotics
- Implementation of a Home Fleet Program
- Establishment of a School Security Bureau
- Creation of a Marine Unit
- Production of a regular Crime Prevention Radio Program
The V. I. Police Department could not have accomplished these 'firsts' without the support and the commitment to quality law enforcement of the Honorable Alexander A. Farrelly, Governor of the U. S. Virgin Islands.
Source: 'Fading Back,' A Personal Look Back into the History of The Virgin Islands Police Department, St. Croix District, written by Elton Lewis