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ABVO blasts St. Maarten police management’s hiring practices, shunning of locals


~ Says Simpson Bay facility dangerous ~

PHILIPSBURG–President of ABVO St. Maarten union Keturah Brown said the union believes that in the near future, St. Maarten’s police force structure will resemble that of the French side with the Dutch playing the role as the Gendarmerie and the local police officers cast in the role of the Municipal Police.

Brown made the comparison while explaining to the media that Police Department Management is not abiding by agreed upon procedures for placing of personnel into their organisation and, to make matters worse, are not working with an agreed upon placement plan.

Brown said instead appointments are being made from outside in, and in some cases to appease friends and/or acquaintances. Brown said qualified local police personnel, team leaders, are being pushed aside/replaced by Dutch nationals who were brought into the organisation as “trainers” and are suddenly team leaders.

Moreover, the union is questioning the merits of the removal of locals as team leaders without the courtesy of an evaluation. The union also questions the merits of appointing the “outside” team leaders.

“We need specialists to share their expertise not fill positions. When our local personnel are pushed aside by persons from Holland, these persons are not assisting they are fulfilling a role,” Brown said. “Before long we will have a Dutch police force and local Municipal Police,” she added.

The ABVO has dispatched a letter to Police Management requesting a halt on new hires until a mutually agreed upon placement plan for the organisation is in place. The letter was sent about a week ago after ABVO saw a list of functions that were to become vacant. The union now understands that three key functions in the detective department will be filled by persons from Holland.

Brown also questioned this so-called “superior” police force structure and if it can really serve the needs of the community.

Prison Situation
The union also criticised Minister of Justice Roland Duncan for not considering the safety of the community and personnel with his plans to use the “outdoor facility” commonly known as the “Simpson Bay Prison.”
“I can’t even call that a prison,” Brown said, adding that the Minister did not seem to care about the dangerous mix of soft and hardcore criminals. The facility was originally meant as a holding facility for immigration. “There are very little security measures at this facility.”

Brown acknowledged that some of the demands and suggestions made by the union have been implemented, but the situation remains dangerous with the minister remaining on one track, his own. Nevertheless, she said, the union will continue to push for safety improvements.

On a more positive note, Brown said the union views one occurrence at the prison as a major step in the right direction: the replacement of Rudsel Ricardo as Prison Director. “In fact, this is a milestone,” Brown said. She said perhaps now with a new director, personnel might have someone who would adhere to the law before themselves and respect workers rights.


Police management dismisses ABVO comments as absurd


PHILIPSBURG–Police Chief Commissioner Peter de Witte has described the assumptions drawn last week by the local arm of the ABVO union as “absurd” and has chastised ABVO for not attending a meeting to discuss the issues about which it complained.

De Witte also disclosed that the Settlement Committee (Vereffenings Commissie) had informed the St. Maarten Police Force KPSM that NAf. 2.4 million had been transferred to St. Maarten’s Ministry of Finance “for payout to Justice staff.”
ABVO St. Maarten President Keturah Brown said last week Wednesday that the union expected to have clear answers on several pending issues, in particular from Minister of Finance Roland Tuitt, by the end of September, as well as settlement of outstanding payments that had been pending prior to St. Maarten obtaining country status.
Should this not happen by the end of September, ABVO will support whatever course of action its members might deem necessary to obtain what is due to them, she said.

Brown also said the union believed that St. Maarten’s Police Force structure would resemble that of the French side in the near future, with the Dutch playing the role of the Gendarmerie and the local police officers cast in the role of the Municipal Police.

Brown made the comparison while explaining to the media in a press conference that the police management was not abiding by agreed-on procedures for placing personnel into the police organization and, to make matters worse, was not working with an agreed-on placement plan.

Instead, Brown said, appointments are being made from outside, in some cases to appease friends and/or acquaintances. Brown said qualified local police personnel (team leaders) were being pushed aside or replaced by Dutch nationals who had been brought into the organisation as “trainers” and suddenly were team leaders.

The police management team reacted by saying that this statement was an absolutely absurd assumption.
“Together we are working on building a stronger and better quality Police Force. This cannot be achieved in one day, as you will encounter many obstacles during this process. This is a natural process. That is why we are in constant talks with the unions and will continue to do so,” De Witte said.

He explained that the police management team had been in talks with the unions concerning these same subjects on the day the press conference was held. Both ABVO and NAPB had requested this meeting with the police management team, but ABVO was absent from this particular meeting.

“The ABVO did not attend the meeting they requested. Instead they went to a press conference to criticise the KPSM management team and the Minister of Justice. However, this consultation resulted satisfactorily to both parties. We are and remain prepared to sincerely incorporate the ABVO in transparent communication,” De Witte said.
The police management team explained to the NAPB during the meeting on Thursday that several files belonging to officers who had been transferred from the Police Force of the Netherlands Antilles to KPSM were not complete.
“Just two days prior to the meeting the management team of KPSM got information from the ‘vereffenings-commissie’ who told us that they completed most of the files and NAf. 2.4 million was transferred to St. Maarten’s Ministry of Finance for payout to the Justice staff,” De Witte said.

He added that the KPSM would not be making any further comment on this issue.

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