Friday , July 1 2022

Detainees put a strain on the police

The Daily Herald writes that the pres- sure that the housing of detainees in the police cells on St. Eustatius and Saba puts on the capacity of the local police force has the attention of Dutch Minister of Safety and Justice Ivo Opstelten. The minister stated this in a recent letter to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament in response to the June 2 report of the Council for the Maintenance of Law and Order (Raad voor de Rechtshandhaving) which inspected the police cells in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba earlier this year.

According to the council, the police cells in the Caribbean Netherlands largely comply with the requirements of (inter)national legislation and regulation. Investments were made to upgrade the police cells. The facilities for detainees are decent, meals and airing time are in order, and the local police have suffi cient knowledge how to deal with the suspects’ rights.

However, the supervising of the detainees has been putting a serious strain on the police units on St. Eu- statius and Saba. Supervising is done by members of the local police force, which puts a lot of pressure on the capacity of the basic police care, the council stated in its report.

On St. Eustatius, assistance offered by Voluntary Corps St. Eustatius VKE was used in previous times. However, only three VKE members were ultimately trained to carry out duties to supervise the detainees, because the training was announced in an ad-hoc manner and also done during working hours. Three VKE members were too few to secure 24/7 supervision.

The council pointed out that it was important to keep an eye on the proper securing of the personnel and material management of the police cell facilities on the three public entities. Police units on St. Eustatius and Saba were not suffi ciently clear as to the organisational context of supervising the detainees. According to the council, the units don’t consider the caring of detainees as their task, and they would like to get clarity on this responsibility, especially where it pertains to a possible increase of personnel capacity.

Minister Opstelten showed comprehension for this issue in his letter to the Second Chamber. He acknowledged that the suspects locked up in the police cells put pressure on the police force’s capacity to provide basic police care on St. Eustatius and Saba. The minister announced that the process had started to alleviate some of the supervising duties of the Saba police officers. A detainee guard has been trained and two additional guards are being sought. The Judicial Facilities Department (Dienst Justitiële Inrichtingen DJI) is currently looking at the possibility of making detention capacity available to alleviate the pressure on the police cells and the police force. The intention is to relocate a number of container cells to hold detainees from Bonaire to St. Eustatius, once the reconstruction of the Bonaire prison has been completed.

Opstelten stated that another concern, the disorderly area between the fencing and cell complex on St. Eustatius, was dealt with. This area behind the cell complex, which was used to store seized goods, has now been cleaned up. The minister further explained that all three police cells in Saba were now back in use after the damage to the washbasin in one of cells, caused by a detainee, had been restored. The camera observation system, which was not properly connected in the Saba police cells, is currently working. Also, fencing has been installed at the cell complex in The Bottom.

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