In March 2004, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) initiated an investigation of the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 14141. On October 5, 2005, the DOJ issued a technical assistance letter to the department which made recommendations regarding specific changes to the department's policies in the following areas: use of force, vehicle pursuits, holding cells, misconduct investigations, discipline, supervisory oversight, and training.
On December 23, 2008, the DOJ filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of the Virgin Islands under 42 U.S.C. § 14141 against the VIPD. The DOJ sought both injunctive and declaratory relief, claiming that the Virgin Islands government, though its actions and omissions, was engaging in a pattern or practice of subjecting individuals to the use of excessive force. Simultaneously, the parties submitted a proposed consent decree to settle the case.
U.S. District Judge Curtis V. Gomez approved the consent decree on March, 24, 2009. The Decree detailed specific actions to be taken by VIPD regarding evaluation, documentation, and review of use of force incidents; citizen complaint procedures; management and supervision; and training.
On June 29, 2010, Judge Gomez allowed an amendment to the Consent Decree to make slight modifications to the monitoring timetable. On December 9, 2010, the Office of the Independent Monitor, from the firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, LLP, began filing regular progress/compliance reports.
Due to VIPD's slow progress toward achieving compliance, on November 2, 2012, Judge Gomez adopted a jointly-proposed Action Plan, which aimed to set realistic and achievable compliance deadlines, and incorporated its deadlines into the Consent Decree. Judge Gomez also eliminated the bright-line deadline in the original Consent Decree, and amended it to provide that the Consent Decree would only expire after the VIPD had maintained substantial compliance with its terms for a period of two years. The Action Plan included particular scheduling details for when VIPD officers would receive trainings for vehicle-pursuit and spike-strip policies as well as deadlines for training its internal risk assessment team related to use of excessive force.
After the VIPD requested and received multiple extensions on compliance related to specific training objectives, the parties filed a joint motion to amend the Action Plan and Consent Decrees on October 1, 2013. In their proposed amendment to the Action Plan, the parties recognized that VIPD required additional time in order to build the infrastructure in training, policies, and supervisory personnel requisite to achieve compliance. However, before Judge Gomez could rule on the motion, the VIPD failed to meet the deadlines it had outlined in the proposed amendment. As such, the parties supplemented their motion to amend, and on February 25, 2014, Judge Gomez held a hearing on the proposed amendment.
At the hearing, Judge Gomez noted that the VIPD leadership had continually promised to meet new deadlines and yet had failed to do so. Judge Gomez suggested that the parties instead target meaningful and achievable quarterly goals, with quarterly hearings on the compliance status of each of these goals. On March 7, 2014, the VIPD filed a notice of their proposed quarterly goals. On April 30, 2014, Judge Gomez issued an order adopting these goals, and struck the Action Plan from the Consent Decree, instead adopting a provision for quarterly goals and compliance hearings. The order was amended on May 22 to make minor adjustments to this provision.
On July 10, 2015, the parties filed a joint motion to amend the Consent Decree with respect to the timing of the Independent Monitor's reports. On August 21, Judge Gomez ordered appropriate amendments to the Consent Decree to facilitate the preparation of more accurate and complete quarterly reports.
The enforcement of the Consent Decree is still in progress.Dan Dalton - 01/23/2007
Louisa Eberle - 11/03/2013
John He - 02/06/2016