Published On: Mon, Nov 6th, 2023

Detention center becomes responsibility of the police force – union threatens with strike

PHILIPSBURG — The NAPB – the National General Police Union – has reacted with dismay to the decision by Justice Minister Anna Richardson to transfer the responsibility for the detention center at the police station to the police force per November 11. The union points out that the police force is already seriously understaffed and that its personnel are not trained in dealing with detainees. Taking care of the detention center will also take police officers off the streets.

The NAPB says that under these conditions it can no longer guarantee safety and security. It demands answers from the justice minister before November 11 and if those answers are not forthcoming it “will have no choice but to stand behind whatever industrial action its members decide to take.”

In a brief historical review, the union concedes that before 10-10-10 the police force was taking care of persons who were apprehended for committing crimes. At that time, the force had the necessary resources to take care of this task.

The union refers to efforts made by former Minister of Justice Roland Duncan to provide training for those aspiring to work in the prison, at the police or at the customs department. “A police presence was seen and felt by the community,” the union states in a press release.

It notes that the present minister of justice has taken the decision to transfer responsibility for the detention center to the police force “without any forethought and the consequences thereafter.”

The matter of the detention center is not the only beef the union has with Minister Richardson. The union claims that the minister “has insufficient planning in her decision-making” and that she “does not have a vision moving forward.”

The decision about the detention center takes the cake: it will have serious consequences for the security of the country, the union states.

Not only that, the task of being a prison guard or a corrections officer is not regulated in the legal status of the police force. “Prison guards and corrections officers receive a specialized training. The health and wellbeing of detainees is also an issue of concern.”

The union points out that the detention center is in dire need of renovation. “It is unhygienic and would cause a serious health hazard to our members. We commend those prison guards who carry out their duty in such deplorable conditions.”

Another concern is that “a reasonable number of police officers” will be pulled off the streets to work at the detention center. Morning traffic during school hours will worsen, the union warns, and the controls of schools by the police will also be affected.

“With all this being said the police force cannot guarantee the safety in Philipsbug, let alone country St. Maarten. Businesses will suffer while police presence will be diminished because of this decision.”

The union furthermore says that the high season and the upcoming Christmas season will further complicate matters.

An unrelated, but still important matter is the promise of retroactive payments. “The minister has mentioned many times that this issue would be resolved before elections. Our members want their national decrees and they want to know about the status of their insurance, because there are concerns that the insurance of police officers by Nagico has expired.”

The NAPB remains polite in spite of all these concerns: “Our board would highly appreciate that the minister of justice reconsiders her decision and focuses on all these points.”

This observation comes of course with a message: if the minister does not react by November 11, the union will support industrial action by its members.


Press release NAPB>>>