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LAWMAKERS APPROVED BILL THAT IMPROVE PUBLIC SAFETY, BILL TO MANDATE EMPLOYEE BACKGROUND CHECK, AND THE REAL CRIME CENTER CENTRALIZED DATA SYSTEM HELD IN COMMITTEE

Published: Oct 10, 2023

LAWMAKERS APPROVED BILL THAT IMPROVE PUBLIC SAFETY, BILL TO MANDATES EMPLOYEE BACKGROUND CHECK, AND THE REAL CRIME CENTER CENTRALIZED DATA SYSTEM HELD IN COMMITTEE

ST. THOMAS – The 35th Legislature’s Committee on Homeland Security, Justice, and Public Safety chaired by Senator Kenneth L. Gittens, convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building. Lawmakers voted and approved a bill regarding privacy at a crime scene. However, the bill mandating employee background checks and the measure for the Real Crime Center Centralized Data System were held in committee. All approved items will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Policymakers voted to hold in committee: Bill No. 35-0086- An Act amending Title 3, Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 1, Section 10h to require background checks for all IT personnel and employees of the Bureau of Information Technology, agencies that have data centers, and any employee who handles classified information. The sponsor of the bill, Senator Dwayne DeGraff, stated that the measure sets a legal premise to conduct background checks on employees instead of leaving it up to an agency to deem it necessary. Mark Bough, Chief Technology Officer of the Bureau of Information Technology (BIT), redirected the responsibility of conducting background checks from BIT to the Virgin Islands Division of Personnel because it is not their duty. Although Ray Martinez, Commissioner of the Virgin Islands Police Department, was neutral about the bill, he recommended that the legislation be fine-tuned by clarifying the term classified information. Senator Gittens asked if the NCIC system could be utilized to conduct background checks. Martinez noted that the federal government prohibits GVI from using the system for criminal record checks for employment. Senator Gittens indicated that it is not questionable as to whether this measure is needed in the Virgin Islands. However, based on discussions, the bill requires additional amendments.

Senators voted in the affirmative: Bill No. 35-0217- An Act amending Title 14 of the Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 89, relating to the invasion of privacy of accident and crime victims by first responders the sponsor of the bill, Senator Marvin Blyden, stated that it is terrible enough to be a victim of a crime, but it is even worse to have bloody and gruesome images of the crime circulating on social media. This sense of violation can only be completely comprehended by those who have experienced it themselves. Martinez noted that without a legitimate law enforcement purpose, it is a violation for a first responder to disclose crime and accident scenes. Defending the first responders, Martinez stated that the first responders are not responsible for the inappropriate dissemination of a crime scene, and the act is punishable if it occurs. Ariel M. Smith, the Attorney General of the Virgin Islands, recommended language to strengthen the bill, such as expanding first responders to government employees. Collectively, lawmakers inquired if there were penalties for the public recording a crime scene. In response, Smith stated that more research was to be done.

Lastly, senators voted to hold in committee: Bill No. 35-0131- Relating to an Act amending Title 3 of the Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 15, to establish a “Real Crime Center and Centralized Crime Data System within the Virgin Islands Police Department. The bill is sponsored by Senator Diane Capehart. Daryl Jaschen, director of VITEMA, suggested identifying a funding source and administering the center for five years prior to its expansion to evaluate its success. Martinez expressed support for the measure and requested an appropriation of $2.5 million to complete the establishment of the system.

Senators present at the committee meeting are Kenneth L. Gittens, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Marvin A. Blyden, Angel L. Bolques, Jr., Javan E. James, Sr., Ray Fonseca, Alma Francis Heyliger, Diane T. Capehart, Novelle Francis, Jr., and Franklin D. Johnson.

The Division of Public Affairs is committed to providing accurate information about legislative proceedings and other events at the Virgin Islands Legislature.                                                        ###

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