Published On: Fri, Jun 11th, 2021

Franklyn Richards joins Progress Committee

PHILIPSBURG — Former Lt. Governor and former member of the Law Enforcement Council Franklyn Richards is the successor of attorney Jason Rogers as St. Maarten’s member of the Progress Committee. This appears from the fortieth progress report the committee submitted to the Second Chamber in The Hague on June 9.

“Compared to the previous report there are few improvements to report,” the committee states. Its visit to St. Maarten from April 19 to 23 focused on future events, like the establishment of the function books for the justice ministry, the agreement with UNOPS (United Nations Office of Project Services), and the appointment of a program manager for the execution of the detention plan.

The committee is pessimistic about the situation at the police force. “The situation has not changed. Limitations like a factual vacancy stop due to a lack of finances and the lack of progress with the function books hamper the further growth of the force. Several years ago things went well with the start of several BPO (Basic police training) classes. The Committee was at that time confident about the growth of the force to the minimal strength of the Plan of Approach. That perspective is not there anymore.”

The Committee concludes that there is still no chance of new growth. New police officers will only come from the ongoing BPO-classes.

The situation at the Pointe Blanche prison offers a more upbeat perspective. That is due to the funding the Netherlands made available through the country package and the agreement between the countries about close cooperation to improve the detentions system conform the Plan of Approach. This includes outsourcing the construction of a new prison to UNOPS.

“Within the limited possibilities, the prison’s current interim-director does whatever he can to keep the situation workable. All this cannot prevent that the situation at the prison is still below standards and outright dangerous.”

The Committee is concerned about the situation at the police force because of the lack of progress with the most important aspects of the Plan of Approach. “Vacancies can only be fulfilled internally and therefore the personnel strength does not increase. The Committee pleads to terminate the personnel stop and to enable the start of new BPO-classes and the acceptance of so-called zij-instromers. These are students or candidates who come from a different background.

Costs come before benefits, the committee points out: “Understaffing results in a lot of structural overtime. Only an increase in staff can decrease overtime substantially. This has been an important issue for the Chief Commissioner but he has not been able to implement it due to staff shortages.”

The report notes that the police are looking at a permanent accommodation for a shooting range, central dispatch and a forensic lab. These were originally planned to be housed in the former Soremar building in Cole Bay. This building could not be used anymore after it was damaged during Hurricane Irma in 2017.

The Committee is positive about the fact that the Justice Ministry has opened the vacancy for the program manager who will be tasked with the execution of the detention plan. The country package provides €20 million ($24.4 million) for the construction of the new prison and another €10 million ($12.2 million) for other bottlenecks in the detention chain.

The recruitment of new personnel for the prison has come to a complete standstill. Vacancies are only fulfilled internally, the Committee states in its report. “The committee advises the minister of justice to begin with the recruitment of prison guards as soon as possible to maintain at least the minimal strength of the shifts.”

The ministry has opened the vacancy for a new prison director, while the agreement for the deployment of the Voluntary Corps St. Maarten (VKS) has been extended. “The interim-director expects that the presence of the VKS will make it possible to begin within short with several daytime activities.”

In the Judicial Four Party Consultation (JVO) the countries are discussing joint training programs for prison employees. “The interim-director foresees that all current staff members will have to do the complete training.”

The committee is content that The Netherlands will provide human resources management expertise to the prison. “To decrease the level of absence due to illness the prison will have to invest a lot in human resources management.”

The Committee has discussed the possible deployment of an ARBO-service for the prison staff with the minister of justice, who has indicated that she is talking about this issue with the minister of General Affairs.