Royal Marechaussee Captain Van der Heiden: “Our work is about delivering added value”

POSTED: 09/27/13 3:02 PM

St. Maarten – “There are of course cultural differences. Some things we would maybe do different. But this is a country under construction and if we are able to contribute to that, I consider that as something very beautiful,” says Captain Ewout van der Heiden, head of the operations of the Marechaussee in the Windward Islands.

The Marechaussee-presence in St. Maarten since 10-10-10 – the moment the island obtained country status – consists of 28 personnel: 15 in the uniform-service, and 13 civilians that support the police force’s detective department.

The Marechaussee is executing tasks for the IBPS (Immigration and Border Protection service) and the police force. “We are not making choices,” Van der Heiden emphasizes.

The Marechaussee is executing tasks for the KPSM (the police force of Sint Maarten) and the IBPS (Immigration and Border Protection Service). The final responsibility for the work processes is with the department heads.

“At the airport we support the back office of the police force. Together with the police we take care of the second-line border control. We have an experienced document specialist there who also functions as a source of information for the immigration service and who furthermore provides document-training.”

That training is not limited to border-control staff at the airport, it also covers IBPS-personnel, the police force, the census office, the Coast Guard and the consular department of the governor’s cabinet.

The Marechaussee in the back office scrutinize travel documents on forgery and they also provide support in the field of migration-criminality, like human smuggling, with an emphasis on collecting and analyzing data.

“We do not deal with goods and commodities that arrive at the airport. That is a task for customs,” Van der Heiden says, adding that there is an agreement that the police and customs with support from the Marechaussee will start working more closely together..

How does the cooperation between the Dutch Marechaussee and the local staff work? Van der Heiden: “That cooperation is good. We are getting along very well. It is important that the contacts between the front-line and the second-line border control at the airport are good, though there is always room for improvement.”

The evaluation report about the protocol for the flexpool of the Royal Marechaussee that was published in March touches lightly in integrity issues. “Several members of the flexpool report integrity-issues to the organization they are contributing to. In some cases the local team leaders do not consider reported irregularities as irregularities,” the report states. This suggests that violations of integrity-standards are at times swept under the carpet.

Van der Heiden says diplomatically: “It is quite likely that at times things have happened about which we have an opinion. We report that and then it is discussed. Our role is to report these issues by saying: we are used to do that differently, and by discussing how to handle certain situations in the future. Sometimes it just comes down to cultural differences.”

How is that? “We are looking at things from a Dutch point of view. It does not hurt to leave that position every now and then and to examine how people here look at the same issue.”

The Marechaussee detachment in St. Maarten also provides support to the police forces on Saba and Statia, next to its support in the detective department in Philipsburg. The thirteen Marechaussee at the police force support the information unit, the detective department and the Detective Collaboration Team RST. Their work varies from registering complaints to taking part in large-scale investigations.

“In the detective department a number of detectives works as analyst; they prepare projects and provide information to other detectives,” Van der Heiden says.

Providing support is not just tagging along with local personnel, Van der Heiden says. “Our work is about delivering added value and about putting our expertise to good use within the various services, whereby most of the support capacity is with the police force.”

Based on the Dutch Police Law, the Marechaussee also has a military police task. In St. Maarten that duty is until now without merit, because there is no military presence on the island. That will change when the Ministry of Defense establishes a small naval base at the harbor in the near future. When the marines arrive, the military police task for the Marechaussee will kick in as well.

The evaluation report about the flexpool supports Van der Heiden’s view that the Marechaussee fits well with the services it supports at the airport, within the police force and on Saba and Statia. The former Minister of Justice, Roland Duncan, expresses his appreciation for the efforts of the Marechaussee. “The minister is very positive about the contribution of the flexpool to the objectives of the general detective department, He also lauds the knowhow and expertise of the uniform-service in the field of document-analysis and the transfer of knowledge and skills,” Oberon Nauta and Jolien Terpstra write in their report, that also contains positive reactions from the police force and the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

The Marechaussee will remain in St. Maarten until at least June 30, 2015. On that date, the flexpool protocol ends. At this moment it is unclear whether the protocol will be renewed.

 

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