No clear trends during White's tenure Police commissioner unexpectedly quits
Published: January 16, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - The highest ranks of the V.I. Police Department were thrown into further turmoil Tuesday as V.I. Police Commissioner Henry White Jr. announced his resignation with harsh words about the territory's law enforcement leadership structure.
"The management style of this commissioner and the political structure in the territory are not compatible," White said.
When asked for further explanation, White said, "It ought to be obvious."
White said he has a "management style of movement for merit and performance," but "if you look at the political structure of how things are done by nepotism, favoritism and politicism - I've been saying it since I've been here, that's nothing new - but that makes it extremely difficult to do a competent job."
White said he has had a year to "take a look at it" and reached the determination that he could not be effective as the police commissioner in the Virgin Islands.
"Since I am a policy-maker and I don't have the authority to hire and fire, that ought to answer your question right there," White said. "If I am the top policy-maker and I don't have the power to hire and fire - hello."
White said he was not asked to step down, and the resignation was solely his decision.
In a press release issued Tuesday afternoon, Gov. John deJongh Jr. said he accepted White's resignation.
"Commissioner White today tendered his resignation effective February, 15, 2013," deJongh said in the release. "I spoke with Commissioner White earlier in the day, accepted his resignation and thanked him for his service to the VIPD since November 2011."
Given the commissioner's resignation and the continued vacancy in the position of Assistant Commissioner, the governor said in the release that he "will have an opportunity to transform the top leadership in the Virgin Islands Police Department so that we can better meet our critical challenges in law enforcement."
Government House spokesman Jean Greaux Jr. said Government House would not comment beyond the three-sentence press release.
The V.I. Police Department has not had an assistant commissioner during White's tenure, and the future of its leadership on St. Croix remains uncertain as Police Chief Christopher Howell continues to recover from gunshot wounds sustained last year.
St. Croix Police Benevolent Association President Arthur Joseph said it was a pleasure working with White. Joseph said White's sudden departure was not expected and has caught the officers by surprise.
Joseph said he wishes White well in future endeavors, and he looked forward to forging ahead with whoever is tapped to lead the department.
"At the end of the day, the union is not here to choose sides," he said. "We are here to ensure the rights of the officers are protected and that they are effective in their jobs."
Joseph said had no recommendations about who should take the helm of the department but the territory is in a position where crime is rampant and officers and resources are stretched and something has to be done soon.
Lisa Plaskett-Samuel, president of the St. Thomas-St. John Police Benevolent Association, said the association does not have any say in who the governor might appoint as White's replacement, but it will work with and respect whoever the governor names.
DeJongh appointed White as acting commissioner in November 2011. On the same day that he announced the nomination of White and former V.I. Health commissioner Dr. Mercedes Dullum, deJongh signed an executive order raising the salary ceiling for cabinet-level positions from $115,000 to $130,000.
Increasing the cap did not actually increase the pay of any commissioners or top managers, but deJongh said at the time that it allowed him to offer a competitive salary to recruit White and Dullum, who both were hired at $120,000 a year.
Dullum resigned two months after she was sworn-in.
White will have served for about a year since his February 2012 confirmation by the Senate.
White said he would like to think that he made a positive impact on the territory even in his short time at the helm. He said he plans to return to retirement after his 30-day notice is up.
White declined to elaborate about what he thought it would take to effectively lead the V.I. Police Department.
"Perhaps another management style would be a better fit," he said.
- Contact Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.Henry White Jr.
Outgoing V.I. Police Commissioner Henry White Jr. brought more than 30 years of law enforcement experience to the Virgin Islands when he was hired as acting commissioner in November 2011 and later confirmed by the Senate in February 2012. His resume includes the following law enforcement experience:
- Criminal justice consultant with private clients and the FBI, 2004 to 2011
- Henry County, Ga., Police Chief, 2003 to 2004
- Criminal justice consultant with private clients and the FBI, 1998 to 2003
- Special agent with the FBI, 1976 to 1998
- Detective, sergeant and investigator with the East Orange Police Department, 1968 to 1976 Outgoing V.I. Police Commissioner Henry White Jr. presided over the territory's police department for roughly one year, a period in which the territory saw mixed trends in its major crimes statistics.
For instance, the territory saw a 20 percent increase in the number of homicides but a 44 percent decrease in reported rape or sex crimes, according to records maintained by The Daily News.
The territory also saw a slight increase during White's tenure in the percentage of homicide cases in which detectives either solved the crime or arrested and charged suspects. That figure was 28.5 percent in 2011 and about 35 percent in 2012, according to the Daily News records.
It should be noted that the data likely is incomplete, as some offenses are not reported or made public by police until months after the fact, meaning that the number of incidents that actually occurred in 2012 likely is greater than the number reflected below.
White was appointed acting commissioner in November 2011 and confirmed by the Senate in February 2012.