Minister Richardson opens police substation in Cole BayPOSTED: 06/1/14 11:52 PM
Stars and stripes as symbols of responsibility, not arrogance
St. Maarten – Justice Minister Dennis Richardson cut the blue ribbon for the official opening of the police substation in Cole Bay yesterday afternoon, during a festive ceremony whereby eight community police officers were promoted to the rank of inspector.
“Sometimes things move so slowly that we do not realize the strides we have made,” Minister Richardson said in his brief opening address. “But still, St. Maarten is a completely different place today than it was ten to fifteen years ago. The community police officers have had an enormous impact on our community.”
The substation in Cole Bay will also service Cay Bay. It is a first step in making policing more effective, the minister said, adding that there is more to come. “I am proud of the steps forward the police force is making,” he added, saying that officers had gone through a busy period with the festive month of December, followed by the Heineken Regatta, the Carnival, the visit of Princess Beatrix and the meetings of the Latin American Parliament Parlatino. “With very few people you are doing a hell of a job,” Richardson concluded.
Angela Dekker, managing advisor of funding agency Usona said that there are more substations in the works – in Simpson Bay, Middle Region, Maho and St. Peters and that Usona has made 640,000 guilders ($357,500) available for these projects, including the substation in Cole Bay. The renovation of the police station in Philipsburg should be completed in June, Dekker said.
Commissioner Carl John quoted in an emotional address a song the youth is crazy about: Don’t ask me any questions, I don’t know. “I discussed this with my officers because I was upset with what I saw – that these youth were using guns and drugs. Then all of a sudden I heard my officers singing the same song.”
Switching from the song to the function of the new police substation – formerly the home of the Adult Toy Box – John said that it will not be a place “where you can come and talk about anybody. What we do here is in conjunction with the communities of Cole Bay and Cay Bay. This is where we will identify and analyze problems and look together for solutions.”
This way, Commissioner John pointed out, the community police will be faster on the ball with problem-solving activities. “The era of annual reports is behind us,” he said. “The community should be the brain, the people should tell us what the problems are and how they can be solved.”
As the driving force behind the community police concept, John continued to say that the police are part of the solution. Referring to the song he opened his speech with, he said, “There is also a cry in that song. A cry for all hands on deck and for making St. Maarten a safe place. If the youth says it, I say, don’t ask me no questions, but tell me that you want to participate.”
Commissioner John acknowledged that the communities of Cole Bay and Cay Bay have been long forgotten, but that the police force is starting on a fresh page. “Sometimes it takes time to bring about changes. Community policing is about smart policing, that is what we believe in.”
Addressing the community police officers, Commissioner John made a statement that came straight from the heart. “Those stars and stripes on your uniform,” he said, “they are symbols of your responsibility, not the symbols of arrogance. What you tell people is not what will affect them, but the way you make people feel is what will impact them.”
The eight community police officers – Romeo, Crispolo, Leonard, Carty, Henson, Josepha, Richards and Chandler – were all promoted to the rank of inspector yesterday afternoon.
Rensley Henson, a son of police spokesman Inspector Ricardo Henson, congratulated his fellow community police officers and pointed to the stars on his shoulders. “They do not mean anything. What matters is your heart.”
Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, who arrived belatedly at the ceremony, acknowledged the work of the community police officers. “Your job is not easy, but I want to thank you for making this possible and for keeping St. Maarten safe.”
Community police officer Felix Richards – now Inspector Richards – said that the safety of all people is the number one priority. “Thanks to this substation police officers will be more visible, and complaints will not fall on deaf ears. Communication with the community is vital. There is a new relationship between the police force and the community. We challenge you to challenge us,” he said. “Without the confidence of the community our work would be in vain. None of our officers is more important than the job they are doing. We are proud to be members of the police force in St. Maarten, we are a team and we have one mission: to serve and protect.”
Inspector Richards acknowledged Commissioner John as the driving force behind the community police project and called him to the microphone again. “I did not expect to speak twice today,” the commissioner quipped, then added, “I have been in the police force for 29 years, but the last four of them have been the most useful.”
The ever-modest commissioner told his officers and the audience, “I don’t want to be a boss. I too live in this community and your children are as important as mine. That is why we do this.”
After the ribbon cutting, those in attendance took a tour of the building that covers two floors of offices and meeting rooms. There are no police cells at this facility – a true sign that this community police substation is a solution-oriented facility.