V.I. Police to begin 10-hour shifts in October
Published: September 1, 2012
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ST. THOMAS - V.I. Police Commissioner Henry White Jr. is waiting another month to implement 10-hour shifts for the territory's cops, but he does not plan to heed calls from at least one union leader to scrap the plan.
In a statement issued Thursday, White said the shift change will go into effect after Sept. 30, not Sunday as initially planned. White said officers are participating in training mandated by the territory's consent decree throughout September, which would prevent the new schedule from having its desired effect.
The decision was made following a meeting Thursday morning on St. Croix between White and union leaders.
In the statement, White said those attending the meeting indicated it was "both productive and informative." He did not return Daily News calls for comment.
One union leader who did not attend that meeting - V.I. Police Cpl. Elroy Raymo, who is president of the St. Thomas-St. John Police Benevolent Society Local 816 - has harshly criticized White's plan throughout the week, saying the commissioner was declaring "war" on the union by pushing for the change. Raymo also has raised questions about how the government plans to pay for the 10-hour shifts, because V.I. law requires employers to pay overtime for any shifts longer than eight hours.
Raymo said he did not attend the meeting with White because he was in the middle of a three-day arbitration on St. Thomas. But he said the delay will give union leaders and the commissioner more time to "hammer out the details" of the new scheduling plan, including things such as days off and the length of lunch breaks.
The union is taking a wait-and-see approach to the delay, according to Raymo. "There's nothing to be happy about as of yet," he said.
White announced earlier in the week that the four, 10-hour shifts, which will give officers three consecutive days off, would apply to all sworn personnel, not just patrol officers. This had been a bone of contention for Raymo, who said the union would file a discrimination grievance if the new schedule only applied to patrol officers and not other personnel.
Raymo's position had softened considerably by Friday, though he said the union will remain vigilant for any fallout from the new schedule if White insists on implementing it and called it a "mirage."
"If that's the case, then we'll brace for it," Raymo said. "Whichever way you look at it, it's a dangerous shift. But we don't have a problem trying it out."
Despite their disagreement over the 10-hour shifts, both Raymo and White agree the Police Department needs a stronger presence on the territory's streets.
Raymo said the Police Department's leaders can do this with eight-hour shifts by reorganizing existing personnel into new squads, such as a vice unit or a streets unit.
"You gotta keep them guessing," Raymo said. "You have to be creative out there."
White has argued that the 10-hour shifts can accomplish the same goal.
"Gun trafficking and gang violence are top priorities in our crime fighting initiatives," White said in the statement. "We must concentrate on the effective deployment of our present manpower to increase visibility at all hours of the day and night to discourage criminal activity."
- Contact reporter Lou Mattei at 714-9124 or email email@example.com.