Police Commissioner Mark Collins apologised on Monday for a video circulating on social media that used footage of shootings and boat chases to portray the Virgin Islands as a paradise grappling with drug trafficking and violent crime.
In a statement, Mr. Collins claimed that the clip was an unfinished promotional video designed to recruit officers from the Caribbean and the United Kingdom, and that it was intended to highlight the challenges and benefits of policing in the VI.
Explaining that an incomplete version had been sent to a small number of officers for feedback, he apologised for the distress caused by the video, which he said “was never intended for public consumption.”
“None of the violence, drug transshipments or the seizures in this video would ever be appropriate to be viewed by the public,” Mr. Collins said, adding, “I am saddened by the actions taken to bring me and the force into disgrace. I am even more disheartened that the people of this territory have to endure additional distress and trauma in this already very difficult time.”
On Tuesday, Police Information Officer Diane Drayton said police are investigating the video leak, but she did not respond to questions about whether an officer is suspected of leaking the video, the origins of the shooting footage, and why that footage wasn’t previously released to the public.
The roughly five-minute video features interviews with police officials including Mr. Collins, Deputy Police Commissioner Jacqueline Vanterpool, high-ranking detectives, and members of the marine and armed response units.
Though the video features clips of officers talking cheerfully with people on the street and praising the territory’s natural beauty while walking on the beach at Cane Garden Bay, it also paints the VI as a dangerous place to do police work.
Mr. Collins at one point tallies up the recent homicides, and an armed response officer says that he prays for his safety before every shift.
“It does constantly surprise me, because you go from being in absolute paradise to being in muck and bullets,” Mr. Collins says, before the video cuts to footage of two men with obscured faces shooting at a car in Fish Bay, where a man was fatally gunned down in March 2021.
He adds, “But you can make a difference.”
The video concludes with a logo of British television network ITV, though it is unclear what role that company may have played in producing the video, and ITV officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Online, the video was met with outrage from some residents who felt that it was tarnishing the VI’s reputation during a time of already intense scrutiny following the arrest of former Premier Andrew Fahie and the publication of the Commission of Inquiry report.
“I am absolutely shocked and disgusted by the release of the video,” political activist Cindy Rosan wrote above a copy of the video she posted on Facebook, which was shared at least 67 times. “What is it meant to accomplish?”
Others, however, took a different view, including businessman Bashar Tarabay, who wondered on Facebook why some residents appeared to be more upset about the video than the crimes and problems it depicts.
He also claimed that people were unfairly villanising the police force at a time when allegations of corruption and criminality among government institutions and leaders including Mr. Fahie have done more harm to the VI’s reputation.
“Everything in the BVI seems political at this point. Always neglecting, underfunding, disrespecting and villainizing the police force for decades. The false Boogeyman, RVIPF,” Mr. Tarabay wrote.
Also on Facebook, Pop Stevens claimed that the criminal element in the VI is actually worse than what was portrayed in the video.
“We need to take responsibility for what transpires on our shores and around our shores, and the first step is to admit that we have some problems just like any other jurisdiction,” he said.