Justice Academy officially opens in St. Maarten


DUTCH QUARTER--Proud members of the Judicial Department, dignitaries and invited distinguished guests sat on the grounds of what used to be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School on Mount William Hill, attending the inaugural ceremony of the new St. Maarten Justice Academy (SMJA) on Friday afternoon, September 14.

The Academy will provide education and training to police officers, Immigration officers and others involved in the judicial sector. The ceremony was also a celebration of the opening of the Community Police Office on the SMJA campus for the areas of Dutch Quarter, Middle Region and Belvedere.

The ceremony began with words of welcome by Kelly Busby and a prayer by Pastor Illidge. The opening address was given by Police Commissioner Carl John who stressed the importance of education, quoting, "The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it from you." He also stressed the importance of community policing, saying police and the community needed to work together to make community policing work.

Eight Community Police Officers (CPOs) were introduced during the ceremony. CPOs Helen Cristina-Romeo and Juan Statie commented on how proud they were to be able to serve their community through community policing.
"It is not only about skills, but a mindset that we are building to go with those skills," Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said of her expectations of the Academy in her address. "I expect a lot of this building and those passing through it," she said. She then congratulated Minister of Justice Roland Duncan and his ministry.

Minister Duncan concluded the ceremony, saying it was important to continue providing education, albeit for Justice. Though some classrooms are still being furnished, SMJA is a result of the hard work and dedication of all those involved, especially the Ministry of Justice, an institution that will educate and focus on local training of uniformed officers.
Richard Straker will be heading the Academy. Academy instructors include high ranking police officers and former police officers. Current police officers will be trained to become instructors in the Academy as well. "The focus is on local instructors," Straker told The Daily Herald.

The ceremony concluded with a toast by Ludmila York-Duncan.

SMJA will open its doors to instruction soon.

President of Parliament Rodolphe Samuel, Minister of Tourism and Economic Affairs Romeo Pantophlet, Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour Cornelius de Weever and Solicitor-General Taco Stein were among the dignitaries in attendance.