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More conversations to come on Police Act, crime fighting in VI– Premier Wheatley

More conversations to come on Police Act, crime fighting in VI– Premier Wheatley

Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr the Hon Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) has promised to bring more conversations on the Bill titled 'Police Act 2023' and on crime in the Virgin Islands, as part of seeking ways to help local law enforcement target crime in the Virgin Islands.

Premier Wheatley spoke via a press conference on May 2, 2023, on General Updates in the VI where he touched on crime-fighting in the VI and the now-paused Police Act 2023.

“At the time when we basically pulled it, we did say to the public we need a little bit more time to discuss it with the people so we will have the conversation especially as it pertains to the upsurge of crime,” the Premier told reporters.

Virgin Islands Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr the Hon Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) has promised to bring more conversations on the Police Act 2023 and on crime in the VI, as part of seeking ways to help local law enforcement find ways to target crime in the Virgin Islands.



Legislation cannot be ignored - Premier

“You cannot ignore legislative remedies to help to arrest the problem of crime, so I ask persons to take a mature look and approach at the concept of what could be done to help enhance policing while ensuring that we protect our civil rights to that they are not abused by giving the police too much power.”

The Premier added that the people of the VI will have to have a mature conversation on the way forward as it pertains to crime in the VI, since more time has been given to look at the bill rather than to rush it.

Earlier in the year and ahead of general elections, the Police Act 2023 was placed on pause following backlash from the public. Despite this; however, Governor John J. Rankin (CMG) has defended the Bill.

“Secondly, let me say that the Police Act and its updating have actually been in progress for many years, and therefore, it is not a rushed piece of legislation. What's also important is that while protecting human rights, we also give the police the modern techniques which are required to tackle modern crime, and one of those techniques, for example, is taking DNA samples,” he said.

In Section 27-35 which deals with fingerprints, foot impressions, and DNA, concerns were raised that the Bill essentially allows the police to take fingerprints of a person without consent in almost every imaginable circumstance, without a warrant for the same.
Earlier in the year and ahead of General Elections, the Police Act 2023 was placed on pause following backlash from the public however, despite this, the Governor John J. Rankin (CMG) has defended the bill.



Governor defended previous bill

The Governor had defended that section of the Bill relating to DNA and fingerprinting, saying it can be an effective tool to catch a rapist, for example. “I make no apology for that,” he said despite the potential for abuse.

Meanwhile, Section 36 of the same Bill allowed for the police to search persons in their dwellings without a warrant if they have reasonable grounds for believing that the person does not live there or does not have permission to be there.

Section 38 also allowed a police officer to search the home of someone who is arrested on an arrestable offense without a warrant, even without that person being present.
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