Minister of Justice seems confused as to how police holding cells were managed in the past



– The function Detainee guard or security doesn’t exist in current police organizational structure –

Lyndon C.J. Lewis

The decision by the Minister of Justice, Anna Richardson, to return the responsibility of the police holding cells after 12 years, to the management of the police force of St. Maarten (KPSM), in the manner of which she did, has only caused confusion within the organization.

It is indeed the norm in the Kingdom and worldwide that the management of any police force manages the police holding cells, but that is done with a proper plan of approach and structure. The Minister of Justice also mentioned that it is not unique for the police force of St. Maarten as the holding cells were managed by the police management in the past.  That the Ministry of Justice and Police force has updated its function book with the function detainee guard.

The Minister of Justice stated that the decision was not abrupt in the Council of Ministers Press briefing on Wednesday November 8, 2023, and that discussions has been ongoing for some time and even years since she assumed office, with KPSM and the prison management but have proven futile and the respective managements would need to elaborate  further on the matter.

The function of the detainee guard is new to KPSM. No recruitment wasn’t done for such a function. The Minister of Justice doesn’t have a clue as to how the police holding cells was managed before the so-called temporary decision by then Minister of Justice Roland Duncan back in 2011. At the beginning of each shift, two police officers would be assigned to do a cell check. Not that police officers would function as prison guards and definitely not as a detainee guard attached to the police holding cells.

My question to the Minister of Justice. What is the job description of a detainee guard or security? What salary scale is attached to that function? How many positions are available for the function? What type of training would one get for such a function?

The Minister failed to mention that the new function book is not in effect and that no one should be placed in such a function that currently doesn’t exist in the current organization and is also against the current police legal position “Rechtspositie”.

The management of KPSM has issued letters to certain police officers. Many of these police officers are considered “persona non grata” or police officers that aren’t liked and or continuously being victimized by the management of KPSM.

The signed letter by Chief of Police, Carl M. John reads:

With this letter, I would like to inform you of an important development within the Ministry of Justice. The Justice Minister has recently assigned KPSM to take over the management of the cell complex to effective from November 11, which means that from then on we will be in charge of the task of detainee security. This change was initiated from the Ministry of Justice. 

The management of detainee security will be transferred to the divisie Executieve Ondersteuning and this will be the responsibility of the Head of Executive Support. This will ensure a more streamlined and coordinated approach to our activities. 

Management has decided that you will become part of the new team of detainee security guards. This means you will be working in the cell complex at KPSM starting November 11. 

A coordinator has been appointed for day-to-day management and as a point of contact for the new group. This coordinator will ensure that operational tasks run smoothly and will be available to handle any staff questions and concerns. 

The new shift schedule will be on a full-continuous system, meaning that four shifts will be used. This means that day, evening and night shifts will be run to meet the operational needs of the cell complex. 

Next week the new schedule will be published in mDr and it will be in effect from Saturday, November 11. So please keep a close eye on mDr. We understand that these changes may require adjustment, but we are confident that these changes are in good hands with you. 

We appreciate your dedication and commitment to KPSM and trust that you and your colleagues will meet the new challenges with the same determination. We look forward to a successful transition and thank you for your continued dedication to the security of St. Maarten”.

This is an insult to police officers who have studied for 16 months to 2 years to become full-fledged police officers to serve and protect the Sint Maarten people.  This decision by the Minister was abrupt and will hinder growth of police officers within the organization. Some of these officers share their ambition to become detectives or to be specialized in other functions. Many officers share the sentiments that this is rather a demotion with no possibility of growth.

In such a situation, If I was Minister of Justice, I would have waited until the function book was official and started a recruitment drive for the position of detainee guard or security within KPSM.

Lyndon C.J. Lewis
NOW political party candidate