ABUSE OF POWER? VIPD Officers Flout The Law … Parking In Handicapped Spot and Refusing To Move SUV Even When ‘Mistake’ Is Pointed Out
$1,000 FINE SHOULD BE PAID TO CHARITY: The Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) officer who was driving patrol unit #207 should own up to his mistake voluntarily and donate whatever the fine would be if he had been willing to write himself a ticket and give the money to the Queen Louise Home for Children that cares for orphans in the territory.
CHRISTIANSTED — Three sets of Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) officers flouted the law this morning when one patrol car parked in a handicapped parking space at Orange Grove — and all three officers refused to move the vehicle even when the inadvertent “mistake” was pointed out to them by a concerned citizen.
The concerned citizen who took the pictures said that they were taken Subway Restaurant across the street from the Almeric Christian Federal Courthouse and next to the McDonald’s on Miracle Mile in St. Croix about 11:18 a.m. today.
The photographer said that he is an 11-year veteran of a police force in Florida and took the pictures after successfully completing the St. Croix Half Ironman competition today, said he went into the Subway restaurant because he was hungry after the swim, bike race, running race on the Big Island.
The concerned citizen, who lives on island year-round, said he went in to the restaurant and asked the officers who was driving VIPD patrol unit #207, and when an African-American male officer responded he was, the photographer asked him to move the vehicle out of the handicapped parking space.
The former Florida police officer said that all he got for his trouble was a “chups” (a derogatory sucking of the teeth in the Caribbean that is generally taken to mean that someone is disgusted).
The concerned citizen said the other two officers with the policeman driving patrol unit #207 this morning were also African-American — one was a man and one was a woman, he said, adding that the offending officer told him that they have the right to practice “selective enforcement” of the laws of the land.
Told that he must be brave to point out to the police that they themselves were in apparent violation of posted laws (fines for parking in handicapped parking spots in the Virgin Islands range from $1,000 to $2,500), the former police officer merely shrugged off his valiant efforts to right an obvious wrong.
“I have no problem standing up to the police for the community,” he told the Virgin Islands Free Press on Sunday afternoon. “ (I) just have higher expectations than are being met.”
The concerned citizen also told the V.I. Free Press that the other two patrol cars parked next to #207 were VIPD patrol unit #137 and VIPD patrol unit #221.
None of the officers driving any of the three vehicles that were there were interested in abiding by the posted laws as expressed in signage at the restaurant, he said, adding that the “selective enforcement” comment was the tipping point that pushed him to leave the restaurant to take photos of all three police cars in the parking lot this morning.
The former police officer said that there were plenty of parking places available in the Subway parking lot at that time of the morning after the St. Croix Half Ironman — and that the officer who parked in the handicapped spot could have chosen a spot to the left — that was open and not in violation of the posted laws — and it would have been just as many steps away from the restaurant’s door as the illegal spot he chose instead.
The concerned citizen said that when he re-entered the restaurant after taking the photos, he asked the other two officers present to write their colleague a ticket for parking illegally, but they refused to do so.
He added that this type of obvious abuse of authority would not be tolerated on the U.S. mainland and that an officer caught willingly violating the law could face serious reprimands, suspension, loss of pay and even termination.
The reaction to this news story has been fast and furious, with some people siding with the officers, and others not. The only question that remains is: what action, if any, will the VIPD take now that they have been officially notified of the offense?
“According to the law, to be an “official” handicap spot “… ADA access signs need to be posted at properly designated accessible parking spaces,” Mike Caprio wrote in the comments section of the V.I. Freep. “A blue line on the curb does not make a handicap spot.”
But another loyal reader disagreed.
“’Selective enforcement’ seems commonplace particularly if it favors them,” wrote a reader using the pen name Malice. “Some officers need to be reminded of the oath they swore to.”
Police Commissioner Delroy Richards, Sr. and VIPD spokesman Glen Dratte declined to comment on this news story.
HANDICAPPED SPOT: This parking space at Subway Restaurant in Orange Grove is clearly marked “handicapped,” but that did not stop a uniformed Virgin Islands Police Department officer on St. Croix from parking there.