Police spokesman Ricardo Henson about Officer Benjamin “We are still mourning the loss of our close friend”POSTED: 09/16/15 11:04 PM
St. Maarten / By Andrew Dick -The entire police force is still mourning the death of its close friend and colleague Officer Gamali Benjamin police spokesman Chief Inspector Ricardo Henson said yesterday. What is the physiological state of the police, since the shooting of the officer on duty? “Not only police officers continue to mourn his death, the entire community does. As you know officer Benjamin was well known and well-liked by the entire community. They appreciated him for the way he did his work and carried himself. He did his job very firm, but also fair. Officer Benjamin will live in the hearts and minds of his fellow police officers. The life of Officer Benjamin will not go in vain, as the entire police force continues to perform its duty with the highest professionalism, and providing safety and security for the entire community and the visitors to country St. Maarten,” Henson said.
Many remember the day of August 5, when two robbers on a motor bike decided to storm in Oro Diamante Jewelry Store on the Front Street. At the time, it seemed that the two had everything worked out to go in, take jewelry and escape on a bike however the officers of the police bike patrol were alerted to the robbery and met them head on. A shooting match transpired and Officer Benjamin was shot while he shot one of the thieves in the stomach and knee. Bystanders recall the day as one of the worst days of their lives. Some even avoid walking through that particular section of Front Street.
The Gamali Benjamin Foundation will cater to counseling officers who went through traumatic experiences. Recently the foundation raised close to $15,000 that will go towards the education of the late officer’s five-year-old son.
The police department has joined forces with other departments within the Justice Ministry to increase manpower, conduct more general controls and increase visibility not only in the Philipsburg area, but also in all residential areas. The police department, as part of its safety program for workers, has ordered additional bulletproof vests for all police officers. Henson did not give a timeline for the arrival of the vests.
Minister of Justice Dennis Richardson announced stiff measures almost immediately after the August 5 shooting that will into go effect as soon as possible. Richardson said at the time these measures will curb the spate of crime. The measures include immediately filling twenty vacancies in the police force. In cooperation with other law enforcement agencies there will be heightened patrols in Philipsburg. Additional bulletproof vests and other materials are presently being ordered to help ensure the personal safety of all police officers, Richardson said.
The banning of motorbikes, scooters and quads from Front Street, Back Street, Cannegieter Street and all associated side streets is also under consideration. Pending the completion of these measures, the police will establish checkpoints, carry out preventative searches and execute joint controls in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies such as the Customs and the Immigration Department.
Richardson said high value sales points and shops which do not take security measures have become “a lightning rod” for armed robberies, thereby endangering the lives of their personnel, clients, innocent passersby and law enforcement officers who rush to their aid. He said the ministry will research the possibility to establish compulsory security measures that have to be taken by all businesses. He said too that public/private partnerships will be pursued and established towards the strengthening of security measures. “As one of the focus points of the aforementioned joint controls the Customs services and the Coast Guard will increase their focus on combating the illegal import of weapons,” he said.
“The management team of the police force has taken all the necessary steps to ensure that its workers get the necessary psychological assistance during and after any crisis situation,” Henson says. “About four months ago the police force send five officers to Curacao, to follow the one week-course in “Bedrijven Opvang Team”. This is a support team of colleagues that provides assistance during or after crisis situations to officers who needs moral support.
As far as manpower and adding more local officers to the force Henson says, there is no set date to start a new course but the police hope that this can take place within short.
The police do have three basic tips for the public; be aware of your surroundings at all times, be alert for suspicious people and vehicles and avoid dangerous situations. Advice for the business sector in Philipsburg during these times, Henson says “Not only businesses but the entire community should take all necessary precautions to make sure they don’t become a victim of crime.”
“When it comes to money people are advised not to flash large amounts, carry money in a safe place by putting their wallets in their front pockets and carry their purses close to their body, watching out for suspicious people near ATMs, keeping children close and paying attention to the people walking in front of and behind them in crowded places to avoid pickpockets. We also advise that people keep their keys in their hand when returning to the cars or their home so they can be ready to open the door, checking their front and back seat for people who might be hiding in it before they get in and locking their doors after they’ve gotten inside,” Henson says.