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Decision by Minister of Justice will have serious consequences to country’s security. Possible strike looming, says NAPB.

PHILIPSBURG:--- “Following a recent decision by the Minister of Justice, it has been ordered that the detention center, at the Police station Philipsburg, will be officially transferred to the police with effect from November 11, 2023, specifically under the executive support department. This transfer means that we as a police organization will bear full responsibility for the management and operations of the detention center. It is essential that we make this transition smooth and efficient to ensure the safety and security we provide to our community”.

The board of the N.A.P.B. would like to give a brief synopsis of the decision taken by the Minister of Justice regarding this issue. Before October 10, 2010, the Police Force was indeed tasked with taking care of persons who were apprehended for committing crimes. The legal amount of days that the apprehended person could be detained in a police cell was 10 days. In the event that the apprehended person’s detention was extended by the acting judge, he or she would be transported to the Point Blanche Prison.

The board of the N.A.P.B would like to promulgate that before 10-10-10, the Police Force had the necessary resources and manpower in order to execute the abovementioned task. In 2011, the then Minister of Justice, Roland Duncan, provided a compacted training course for persons aspiring to work in the various departments in the Justice Ministry i.e. Prison, Police, Customs, etc.

Upon completion of this course, these trained professionals would then be sent to work in the various departments in the Justice Ministry. To this effect, a Police presence was seen and felt by the Community of St. Maarten.

Currently, in 2023, the present Minister of Justice has made this decision seemingly without any forethought and the consequences thereafter. In addition, in March 2023, The Minister of Justice was advised to address certain issues. This has not been the case up until present i.e. the current issue of overtime. Below are some observations that the Board of the N.A.P.B has taken:

1: The Minister of Justice has insufficient planning in her decision-making.

2: The Minister of Justice does not have a vision qua moving forward in her decision-making.

3: The Minister’s decision will have serious consequences for the security of Country St. Maarten.

Here are some reasons why the decision taken by the Minister of Justice would have serious consequences to the security of this country.

- The Police Force of Sint-Maarten is already SERIOUSLY understaffed. The Minister of Justice is well aware of this fact.

- That task of being a Prison guard/Corrections Officer does not appear in the Legal status of the Police (Rechtspositie).

- The Police are currently NOT trained to deal with prisoners. Prison guards/Corrections Officers receive specialized training in dealing with prisoners/detainees. The health and well-being of Prisoners/detainees are also an issue of concern.

- The detention center located above the Philipsburg Police Station is in dire need of renovation. It is also unhygienic and would cause a serious health hazard to our members. We commend those prison guards who carry out their duties on a daily basis in such deplorable conditions.

- A reasonable amount of Police Officers will be pulled off the street in order to perform the duties of Prison Guard/ Corrections Officer

- The situation of the morning traffic during school hours will worsen.

- The controls of schools by the police will also be affected.

- The lives of the Police Officers on patrol will be placed in danger!

- The cries of the members stating that this is not in their job description nor their legal position.

- With all of this being said, the Police Force cannot guarantee safety in Phillipsburg, let alone country St. Maarten. Businesses in Phillipsburg and especially the boardwalk will suffer and Police Presence will be diminished as a result of this decision. Please realize that we are entering into the high season when the country St. Maarten welcomes an influx of tourism. There is also the Christmas season steadily approaching as well as elections subsequently.

The Board of N.A.P.B has received many questions and grievances from its members since having received a very nice letter in their emails with respect to the process of the Budget amendment and Retroactive payments. Albeit this was a very well-put-together letter, there were no concrete details as to the finalization of this process. In short, the members of N.A.P.B want their National Decrees. The Minister of Justice has mentioned MANY TIMES, also on the floor of Parliament, that this whole issue regarding the Legal status of the Police et al. would be resolved before elections.

They also want to know about the status of the insurance by NAGICO. There are concerns that the insurance for the Police Officers by NAGICO has expired.

In closing, the board of the N.A.P.B. would highly appreciate that the Minister of Justice reconsider her decision and focus on the abovementioned points. If we do not receive an answer by November 11th, 2023, The board of the N.A.B.P. will have no choice but to stand behind whatever industrial action its members decide to take. 

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