Querrard named asst. police commissioner

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ST. THOMAS - The territory welcomed back a familiar face on Tuesday to assume control of its police department.

Effective Tuesday morning, Rodney Querrard Sr., 49, was named assistant police commissioner and acting police commissioner to replace outgoing Commissioner Henry White Jr., according to Government House spokesman Jean Greaux Jr.

Querrard retired from the V.I. Police Department in April 2012 after 25 of service; he attained the ranks of sergeant, lieutenant and St. Thomas-St. John police chief.

Querrard, a St. Thomas native, said his first step as acting commissioner will be to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the department he left almost nine months ago.

"I need to go back in there and assess where we are at - what's working, what's not working - in order to try and move the department forward for the betterment of everyone in the territory," Querrard said. "It's hard for me to make a comment one way or another right now. It's going to take some time to take the department where we want to get it."

When asked why he decided to come out of retirement to return to police leadership, Querrard said, "This is home."

"The way I look at it, somebody needs to step up to the plate to at least attempt to make this place better," Querrard said. "At the end of the day, this is home. The Virgin Islands is my home and will be my home until the end, and I'd like to make an effort to do everything I can."

Querrard is the fifth person to assume leadership of the V.I. Police Department in the last four years. The commissioner position has been held on a permanent basis by three men, James McCall, Novelle Francis Jr. and White, and on an acting basis now by two men, Querrard and former Assistant Police Commissioner Raymond Hyndman.

Greaux said the decision to appoint Querrard effective immediately came after Gov. John deJongh Jr. met with White Tuesday morning. Exactly one week earlier, the governor accepted White's resignation, which was to take effect Feb. 15.

"I think the governor is very interested in transforming the leadership of the V.I. Police Department," Greaux said.

The day Government House announced White's resignation, White explained his decision to step down by saying his management style of advancing employees for merit and performance was incompatible with "the political structure of how things are done by nepotism, favoritism and politicism" 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 did not return messages for comment for this story.

Querrard declined to comment on White's parting assessment of politics and law enforcement in the territory.

"I don't know what he saw. I'm going to have to experience it myself before I make any comments on that," he said.

Querrard emphasized it will take a spirit of cooperation to address the territory's mounting crime problem.

"I would just ask for the cooperation of the people of the Virgin Islands," Querrard said. "When I left as chief, we had a lot of input from the community. The community was our eyes and ears. People called all the time with information that caused the Police Department to have arrests before crimes and after crimes occurred. I'd like that continued support from the community."

Greaux said deJongh had been in talks with Querrard about returning as assistant commissioner "long before" White's resignation. Greaux said the governor will continue to review "several candidates" for the commissioner position until he decides whether to appoint a permanent commissioner or to nominate Querrard for the post.

Greaux said he did not believe the governor and Querrard had discussed that possibility yet.

The assistant commissioner's salary, without the government-wide 8 percent pay cut set to expire in July, is $110,000 and will not be increased for the acting commissioner duties, according to Greaux.

According to V.I. Government Employees Retirement System regulations, Querrard can return to work for the government and continue to receive his GERS pension for a maximum of 75 days, after which, if he remains employed, his pension will cease and he will again become an active GERS member.

When he retires again, his monthly benefit will be recalculated based on his salary during his re-employment.

Greaux said Querrard will face "a wide gamut" of issues that need to be addressed to move the territory's police force forward, but he believes the governor and Querrard "share a common view" on how to do this until a permanent commissioner is put in place.

"Until that point, the governor is very confident that police operations will not be impacted," Greaux said.

Sen. Kenneth Gittens, chairman of the 30th Legislature's Public Safety, Homeland Security and Justice Committee, said the appointment of Querrard as acting commissioner comes at a time when the public is "duly concerned" about crime and the direction of the Police Department. Gittens said any permanent appointment to the post will be under "severe scrutiny" by him and his committee.

After a vacancy in a commissioner position occurs, the governor has 90 days to submit a nominee to the Legislature, which then has 90 days to act on the nomination, according to the V.I. Code.

- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email lmattei@dailynews.vi.

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