Justice Minister Richardson embraces recommendations police visitation

POSTED: 07/29/13 1:42 PM

St. Maarten – “The police force is the first organization that has been audited by independent outsiders,” Justice Minister Dennis Richardson said yesterday afternoon when he received the first copy of the visitation report about the force from Franklin Richards, one of the members of the visitation committee.

Former Justice Minister Roland Duncan and Ronald Bandell, chairman of the Progress committee St. Maarten ordered the audit. Ironically, Duncan’s successor Dennis Richardson was appointed as the committee’s chairman. “The intention was to use the findings of the committee as a tool to negotiate with the justice minister,” Minister Richardson said. “The good thing is that I do not need to negotiate with myself. I agree with the recommendations and I will make sure that they are carried out. The recommendations are very good and they have my full support.”

The visitation committee audited the police, and then took two months to put its report together. “Since 10-10-10 the force has made good strides,” Franklin Richards said. “The assignment was to make an inventory of the state of affairs at the police. We found that the force is moving forward. It was a good decision to put more blue on the streets and to make sure that extraordinary police officers get more training. It is now up to the minister to carry this further.”

The visitation report contains eight recommendations. The first one has to do with the setup of the organization and the legal position of the staff. “concretely it is about the function-house, the formation plan and the setup of the organization. Stagnation on these dossiers will paralyze the organization and undermine the internal legitimacy of the force’s management,” the report states. Shortly a plan of approach must be made that establishes which dossiers must be available at what moment within the force and when decisions about them are taken by the justice ministry.

The second recommendation is to give the force a broader mandate. “Currently management has insufficient mandate to operate decisively. Having sufficient mandate is an important condition for the Chief Commissioner to take decisions fast and the react quickly to developments. Within the established framework the force ought to have a broader mandate with the principle of giving account afterwards. The force has to create good conditions to enable reliable accountability,” the report states.

The third recommendation is about the positioning of the force in the interaction with the justice minister. Internally the message ought to be together we stand tall: “The social and administrative situation in St. Maarten requires a force that is resilient and that acts in unison. This means that the Chief Commissioner must shift his focus inwardly. It requires good teamwork within the management team, empowerment and participation of staff, short communication lines and management by walking around.”

The report furthermore recommends timely training for people within the force. The temporary assistance from the Netherlands had contributed to the development of the police force. “It is important to keep up the dynamics of improvement autonomously. A phased cut back of this assistance is a condition for this,” the report states.

Another recommendation is to invest in the training of extraordinary police officers (Bavpol), who are deployed for specific tasks. The proposal is to offer additional training to talented Bavpol-officers and to use the others only for specific tasks. The force could use retired police officers as coaches and supervisors.

Middle management focuses insufficiently on performance-improvement on and off the “shop floor.” Terms like cooperating foreman and coaching on the job must be given more content. “The force therefore has to invest in training and coaching its middle management,” the report recommends.

The force has improved its internal communication, but it still needs a quality jump to develop the “esprit de corps.” The same is true for external communication, the committee notes in its report. “The police force must develop a more conscious policy of marketing and public relations aimed at improve its reputation and celebrating its successes.”

Lastly, the committee notes that the police force is not connected to the country’s IT-infrastructure and that it is therefore badly informed. “This is unacceptable and something needs to be done fast.”

The committee recommends to quickly effectuate the agreements with the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Safety about the electronic police registration system Actpol: “This is important for the professional recording of data and for consulting and exchanging these with third parties like other government organizations and other countries.”

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