Justice Ministry partners with Miami Dade School of Justice

POSTED: 05/18/12 1:41 PM

Garcia: “Community policing is pro-active, not reactive”

From left to right Dr. Hector R. Garcia, Justice Minister Roland Duncan and Commissioner Carl John.

St. Maarten – “The police are a reactive force. Something happens and we call the police. Community policing is pro-active: before something happens there are always warning signs,” is how dr. Hector Garcia, Director of the Miami Dade School of Justice explained the difference between traditional police work and community policing to this newspaper on Wednesday.
Community policing also addresses what Garcia calls “quality of life offenses.” A fine example presented itself just before the press conference at the justice Ministry on Front street when two patrolling police officers addressed an apparently homeless man who was sleeping on a bench. After some friendly advice, the man got up and went on his way.
“Those occurrences have a domino effect,” Garcia said. “First there is one man sleeping, then there are three, and soon they are having a beer together. We call that the broken windows-effect. If there is one broken window in a deserted building and nobody does anything about it, soon all the windows will be broken.”

Garcia visited the Justice Ministry to give a brief presentation of the Miami Dade School of Justice. The school, part of the Miami Dade College, is training local policemen and women for their task as community police officers. Five areas have been identified for this new service: the Lowlands, Philipsburg including Fort Willem and Pointe Blanche, St. Peters, including South Reward and Betty’s Estate, Dutch Quarter and Middle Region.
Five police officers have been elected to follow the training at the School of Justice: Hellen Christiana-Romeo, Edualdus Josepha, Felix Richards, Michael-Angelo Sylviana and Juan Statie.
Justice Minister Roland Duncan signed a partnership agreement with the school. Its main purpose is to make law enforcement more accessible, to foster “ideals of maintaining a more sustainable future for law enforcement,” and “to deliver a justice service that is extraordinary and exceptional.”

Community policing is one of the approaches to achieve these goals. The traditional island-attitude towards the police force is one of deep distrust. Community police offers are tasked with building bridges in the neighborhoods where they are stationed and to develop relationships with residents.
“Each neighborhood has its own needs,” Garcia told this newspaper. He has been touring the five neighborhoods with police officers to make assessments. “We are still touring the neighborhoods to gather more data,” he said.
The five police officers will undergo a 40-hour training at the School of Justice. Eventually, when they are putting their knowledge into practice, building a neighborhood coalition is one of their core tasks. “In the past things happened and they were seen as a police problem. In reality they are a neighborhood problem,” Garcia said.
Once the officers have completed their training at the school in Miami, Garcia will track their performance in the field on a monthly basis.

The School of Justice starts enrollment in its courses at the high school level – a system Justice Minister Duncan also envisions for St. Maarten. “It offers young people real career opportunities,” he said.
Garcia said that the school of Justice has a track record going back 40 years. The school trained 90 percent of all the police officers in its region and 80 percent of all firefighters. The school offers 200 different classes and has 335 instructors at its beck and call.
The school offers academic programs for degrees in public safety management, criminal justice and fire science technology; there are also basic law enforcement courses, courses that lead to crime scene technology certificates and, recently, a Homeland Security certificate. The school also offers programs for security companies and private investigator classes. Last but not least, the School of Justice is home to the FBI Youth Academy.

In the course of next week, the Justice Ministry will publish contact information for its first fiver community police officers. In July a second group will start the course. Minister Duncan said that he intends to broaden the cooperation with the American school for the upgrading of staff in the uniformed services like the Immigration and Naturalization Department, the prison, the police force and the customs department.

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