By Judy Fitzpatrick, The Daily herald Sint Maarten
PHILIPSBURG–With more than three decades’ experience in the disciplinary services and a zest to create positive change, Carl John has big plans for the Police Force of St. Maarten, which he will be heading as the new Police Chief.
The new top cop will be zeroing in on crime, ensuring that officers are equipped with the tools needed to function, and will work towards putting a new structure in place to foster more transparency and integrity in the organisation, amongst a list of other goals.
“I am highly motivated to make the St. Maarten Police Force one of the best in the Caribbean,” John told The Daily Herald in an exclusive first interview since the decree making his appointment official was finalised.
John’s priorities include providing members of the Police Force with the tools necessary to carry out their tasks and to ensure that the men and women “who put their lives on the line for their country every day” receive the support they need.
He also plans to focus on implementing a new structure within the Force to “guarantee more transparency and integrity” in the organisation. He said this was necessary “because only then we will inspire trust and confidence from the community that we serve.”
Another goal is to advocate and encourage continued education and training amongst officers, “because it is good and well to have the practical experience, but having the proper knowledge and technical skills is also very important.”
John also plans to promote more active involvement in the community via Community Police Officers (CPOs), so that there will be more willingness by the community to cooperate with the police. He said improved communication was part of this plan, “because who best to tell us what they need in their community than the people residing there.”
According to the new Chief of Police, any relationship, whether personal or business, needs certain interpersonal skills to ensure that there is harmony. “So therefore, I hope to bring balance, a sense of unity internally and externally so that the Police Force can function successfully and with professionalism.”
Even with his plans to better things for the Force, John is taking up his new post with many concerns about it.
Primary among these are the lack of human resources plaguing the organisation, insufficient funding for building of the Force and for projects, and the fact that the Police Force is “caught in the middle of the political fight” between the Netherlands and St. Maarten.
He said the latter had resulted in officers not being able to obtain adequate schooling. However, he noted that “we are fighting to change this” by partnering with local professionals.
The new Police Chief said he always had been “very accessible” to officers and this would continue in his new position. “I have an open door policy when it comes to them because what we do is not a simple task, so I try to be there to offer support, encouragement and advice to everyone when needed.
“I will keep schooling and also organise a series of training sessions for them, which so far is geared at being more service-oriented to the community and to their peers. These trainings will continue in the hopes of positively influencing them, while improving our professionalism and mode of operation.”
The spate of crime has John’s full attention. He said the Force was currently working on a number of initiatives, the details of which he said he was unable to disclose at the moment. “However, know that we are dealing with these issues now in a more strategic way. That way, instead of just treating the symptom, we are hoping to cure the disease of crime plaguing the island.
“So at the moment, my team and I are doing our utmost to strengthen the community and to prevent crime. We have started with simple things like organising neighbourhood cleanups, getting people involved, working with the schools in various areas, educating the public to report suspicious activities to the police and refusing to turn a blind eye to crime.”
His message to the criminal elements in the community is simple: “We will not stop! Despite all the things we are lacking to function at our optimum capability, we are committed and dedicated to making and keeping St. Maarten safe. We may be seen as a small group, but we are a force to reckon with when it comes to crime-fighting. We will continue to partner with all law-abiding citizens to keep this country safe for all residents and visitors.”
Who is Carl John?
The new Police Chief is a very private person who likes to separate his personal life from his professional one. He describes himself as a straightforward, no-nonsense person who at the same time possesses humility, which he said had been instilled in him from an early age.
“I don’t cut corners and if there is something that needs to be done I roll up my sleeves and do it. I am a go-getter and decisive. I also believe that my word is my bond, so if I give you my word, I stick to it.”
John said he always had been a problem-solver in all situations, hence the Justice field had appealed to him from a tender age.
John completed his primary and secondary education in Curaçao. He entered the Police Academy in Curaçao as a cadet in 1985 and worked his way up the ranks to his current position. At the academy he completed all the necessary requirements and all additional courses offered.
He believes that education is the key to self-empowerment, has made it a personal objective to further his education while working and has successfully completed many studies in General Management. He currently is working towards obtaining a Master’s degree in General Management.
John’s first rank in the Police Force was as Patrol Officer at the police station in Punda, Willemstad, Curaçao. He then worked in St. Maarten as a Senior Patrol Officer in Philipsburg for a short period before returning to Curaçao to take up the position of Team Leader in the Special Operations Unit.
After this, he was tasked with creating and implementing the Zero Tolerance Team in Curaçao and because of the success of that unit, he was asked later to function as a Team Leader in the Atrako Team (special robbery team), and later as a Team Leader at the newly opened police station in Tera Cora, Curaçao.
He returned to St. Maarten in 2003 to function as Chief of Internal Affairs. In 2006 he was asked to head the Uniformed Division in Philipsburg.
As the years ticked by, he was placed in charge of several projects and in 2010 became Head of General Affairs for the Police Force of St. Maarten, where he implemented the Community Policing project and the local Police Bike Patrol Team. From then he began deputising as Project Manager for a number of other police projects. As of 2010, he also began functioning as Acting Chief of Police for St. Maarten.
Asked what he brings to the table as the new Chief, John said: “I believe that my formal education gives and equips me with vast knowledge and technical skills required for the position. …
“I have been working in the Police Force for over 30 years, which gives me a wealth of experience. I have worked in almost every area of the Police Force, including the operational, administrative and in the field. In addition, my experience has afforded me to know the communities and the people of St. Maarten very well.”
John is cognisant that the success of the Force depends on having all hands on deck. “I strongly do not believe that the appointment of one person will solve all the problems or bring our crime figures down. It has to be a combined effort, with a Chief and his dedicated team in collaboration with the community.”
Asked what it is about being in the disciplined services that he likes, he said: “Without order, then there will be chaos, and I prefer in all situations to be part of the solution. I consider myself to be a people’s person and by doing this job I get to not only be of service to others, but also to my country.
“I have been serving St. Maarten humbly, with integrity and to the best of my ability so far. This new position will not change that; if anything, it pushes me to do better. However, as I said before, I cannot do it alone and am hereby asking for the cooperation of the community to help me in my quest for change and curbing crime on the island.”
Bron: Openbaar Ministerie Sint Maarten