PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — St. Maarten’s Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson on Friday said he stood fully behind the position of the police union NAPB with regards to the involvement of others in St. Maarten’s justice chain who has tried to “justify their own ineffective presence” and “unjustly marginalized our local law enforcement agencies.”
“A Minister of Justice of Sint Maarten cannot stand idly by whilst others whose performance does not justify their arrogance in unjustly denigrating local law enforcement agencies,” Richardson said firmly in addressing reports of so called assistance for St. Maarten.
The Minister told the gathering that though government has not been able due limited financial means to timely deliver all that has been considered necessary, gradually all is being done to do so. “And that is a fact. Many personnel backlogs have been eliminated and/or corrected and that work continues. The increase of the size of the force can only happen with the increase of the financial means of the country. That is also presently being tackled,” he said.
“We will have to do what we have to do on our own, with the means that we have. It will take in some cases a little longer. We do it with pride and conviction. To those who because of this want to abuse this situation to try and justify their own ineffective presence, by attaching all kind of strings to their offer of help and in so doing unjustly marginalize our local law enforcement agencies I say: think again. To those I say: when you are gone and you have not helped us to structurally improve our situation, we will be worse off than before. In that case I say: then we will do it on our own strength and with the cooperation of other regional countries that do respect our autonomy and appreciate our achievements notwithstanding our limited means, the Minister stressed.
Minister Richardson pointed out that St. Maarten’s police force can be proud of its performance which has contributed to the downward trend in crime from 2010 through 2014. With the exception of 2014 in which gang related attempts at serious body harm and/or murder showed an increase, nearly all other types of crime are showing a steady decline such as breaking and entering in homes, cars, thefts, physical abuse, sexual abuse. The performance of the force in the area of High Impact Crimes such as murders, bank robberies and holdups, has been impressive.
All of this, he said, was done one by a police corps that carries out its job 24/7 365 days a year and that should have a capacity of at least 350 fte’s (full time equivalent) officers, but today is at level of around 220 fte’s. By comparison, he continued, Monaco a state in the South of France that I had the opportunity to visit has a population of about 33.000 a daily influx of around 40.000 from France and Italy and a tourist product of say 500.000 per year. For that task they have a force of 600 officers. St. Maarten’s police force has the challenge to ensure the security of a population of 55.000, with a neighboring population of 40.000 on the French side, between which there is daily and frequent interaction as well as a tourist product of 4 to 5 million a year.
The Minister said, that this challenge could only be taken on successfully when the officers are dedicated to their job, take pride in their work and are prepared to make sacrifices to hold the standard of St. Maarten at its highest possible peak.
“The police officers of St. Maarten feel personally challenged when a HIC takes place and are ferociously committed to solve those crimes that form a mayor threat to society. They are only capable of doing this with the limited resources we have if they dedicate themselves to achieving the highest quality of work,” he said.
“It is therefore the responsibility of government to within the means they have to see to proper training and education, equipping the force sufficiently to do its work, securing their salaries, rights, obligations and making sure that in this dangerous work the officers themselves have facilities that help protect themselves and carry out their work as safe as possible.”
“That is why government has facilitated training and education until now and will continue to do so by establishing a modern training center where all kinds of operational training (shooting, apprehension, car apprehension, exercise, self-defense, etc.) will take place (BBW) The government is also in the process of upgrading and expanding the Justice Academy, where the BPO (a class of 20) has recently started and a tailor made BPO for the BAVPOL police officers of 2011 is been developed and other necessary training and education is and will be taking place for the different law enforcement agencies.
“Furthermore the police force has been supplied with modern interceptors that have been an example to other police corps (Curacao and Anguilla). Modern interrogation facilities have been established and we are in the process of establishing a forensic lab. Recently a project has been initiated with the intention of providing affordable, modern and secure housing for law enforcement officers, etc. etc.”
Minister Richardson acknowledged there is more to be done, but used the opportunity to re-state a famous quote, slightly adjusted, to fit St. Maarten’s situation: “Rome was not built in a day” and I add “in St. Maarten it takes just a day longer”.