~ Abuse of overtime drained government coffers over the years. ~
PHILIPSBURG:---- “There are more thieves working inside the police station than there are on the streets” a statement made by a leading Attorney who contacted SMN News due to the stolen vehicle articles that have been published. The Attorney who spoke out said over the years police officers working at the Philipsburg Police Station are known thieves and their victims are persons that have been arrested or detained. The Attorney said prisoners’ personal items that are taken by the police when they are detained or arrested often disappear when in police custody. He said in the past illegal immigrants suffer the most because these persons were deported, and they would never get back their valuables police took prior to taking them to their holding cells. Jewelry watches and even cash money often disappear, and no one gets punished for the disappearance of the items. Persons that were detained with expensive wristwatches, gold jewelry never gets back their items and when their attorneys step in then the police would demand they show receipt or proof of purchase for the items that they stole, and even when those are provided the items are never returned or there is never compensation. Those persons that inherited items from relatives often are accused of stealing their prized possessions while police steal these things when it's in their custody. The Attorney said even when police raid people's homes expensive items often time disappears, and nothing is ever done about. Several other persons also shared the same sentiments about their possessions that were taken by police whenever they were in police custody. SMN News published articles about this trend years ago and nothing was ever done to compensate people that lose their items that were in police custody, however, the situation was never regulated or controlled and no one has ever been punished for stealing prisoners' belongings.
Abuse of overtime by police officers.
For years police officers were allowed to clock in any amount of overtime they want even if they work or not, officers that are close to police management over the years are the ones that would take advantage of the overtime so they could take home more money.
The overtime payment is something that senior management would award their closest friends within the Korps. Recently the police and their unions began grumbling because Minister of Justice Anna Richardson has decided to streamline the overtime to save the government money. This was done as a cost-cutting measure since the government of St. Maarten was forced to cut costs to receive much-needed financial support. Based on the current regulation put in place by Minister Richardson a police officer can only clock in 20- hours of overtime per month, should any police officer exceed the 20-hours of overtime they must provide documentation as to why they exceeded their quota? One such document that must be provided is at what event they worked all of which must be signed off by the Chief Commissioner of Police. This new regulation does not sit well with the police officers especially those that were benefitting by abusing the overtime that was never controlled prior to Minister of Justice Anna Richardson taking office.
The Minister of Justice is also working on finalizing the much talked about Function Book that police officers have been waiting for since St. Maarten became a country. While several Ministers of Justice worked on this project that eventually gets scrapped each time a new Minister of Justice takes office. Minister Anna Richardson said in an invited comment that for the first time a legal framework for the function book has been established which the workgroup is working with to finalize the project. Minister Richardson said whether or not, this government remains in office until the finalization of the function book the workgroup has a specific legal guideline, they could work with to finish the project.
However, soon as the function book is completed the next situation government will have to brace themselves for when the function book is completed is to be able to pay the police officers whatever is owed to them since their scales/ positions are finalized in the function. Can the government pay these officers when the function book is completed is another question they would have to answer especially since the government does not have the required amount of money in their coffers to foot their expenses?
In addressing the stolen vehicles saga that is now being highlighted by SMN News, Minister of Justice Anna Richardson assured that an indebt investigation is currently underway. The Minister said that she did look into one of the cases that have been published by SMN News but felt that it was an isolated case when she asked questions about it some time ago. Currently, the Minister has elevated the investigation and hopefully, the Prosecutor’s Office and the investigating entity will soon shed light on the alleged racket taking place at the Philipsburg Police Station under the watchful eye of Chief Commissioner of Police Carl John.
Another aspect of the investigation the Minister promised to have investigated is the allegations set forth by many who said that a number of police officers are renting and selling motor vehicles that bear private number plates such as “M” and “P”. It should be noted that these officers are conducting illegal business since none of them have a vehicle rental license to rent or sell motor vehicles. The Public Transportation ordinance clearly states that holders of car rental licenses, taxi, or bus licenses must use the licenses as their primary income. Civil Servants such as police officers are not permitted to register any business while working full time for the government of St. Maarten. One of the problems this illegal activity is creating is the shortcomings for legal permit holders for car rentals and automobile dealers that have to pay their fair share of taxes while there still exists the danger of renting vehicles with private number plates and not declaring the extra income to the tax department. SMN News is still investigating these cases and other articles will be published as it becomes available.