Published On: Thu, Dec 14th, 2017

Evacuated RST members are at work in Curaçao

RSTTHE HAGUE - Sixteen members of the Kingdom Detective Cooperation Team (“Recherche Samenwerkings Team” (RST)) stationed in St. Maarten were evacuated from St. Maarten after Hurricane Irma early September.

They continue their work from Curaçao pending a decision on their return possibly in March next year. Meanwhile, four persons are manning the RST branch in St. Maarten.

Considering the trauma and damage the hurricane had inflicted on the RST personnel and their families, the RST management team in Curaçao in its role as employer decided shortly after the storm to evacuate the entire team, consisting of 15 detectives who had been dispatched from the Netherlands and one St. Maarten member, plus their families, to Curaçao. The fact that the RST office was damaged also played a role in that decision.

Due to the lack of airlift and the severe damage to St. Maarten Princess Juliana International Airport SXM, it took a few days to get everyone to Curaçao. The evacuation was completed five days after Hurricane Irma.

The RST was not the only entity that temporarily relocated its people to Curaçao: family members of other law enforcement agencies and emergency services were evacuated as well.

Once in Curaçao, the RST members and their families were provided with housing, psychological assistance and, if needed, clothing. A reliable source told The Daily Herald that a few RST members would have preferred to stay in St. Maarten to assist their colleagues of the St. Maarten Police Force KPSM in the tough times after the hurricane.

Before the actual evacuation of the 16 detectives and their families took place, the RST management team decided to send assistance to St. Maarten immediately following the hurricane. A total of 36 RST members came to St. Maarten within days after the hurricane to temporarily assist the island with basic police tasks, including the maintaining of public order, and to fill the gap after the departure of their St. Maarten colleagues.

These RST members also assisted with the evacuation of their St. Maarten colleagues.
An RST spokesperson told this newspaper that the situation in St. Maarten at that time severely hampered the daily operations of the local RST team and the communication with the RST office in Curaçao. Communication was almost impossible, there was limited access to power and Internet, which made the availability of the information technology (IT) system very unstable.

It was contended that at least in Curaçao the RST members could continue their work, while family members were safe and had an opportunity to get some rest after their predicament. It should be noted that many of the RST members have young children.

Currently there are four RST members in St. Maarten, while the rest of the team works from Curaçao. This way of operating will be maintained for the time being, the spokesperson confirmed. The RST management team, in consultation with the KPSM and the Prosecutor’s Office, will take a decision on the definite work structure in March 2018, or possibly a bit earlier.

The current temporary situation in no way hinders the RST operation, including the work of the Subversive Crime Team (“Team Bestrijding Ondermijning” (TBO)) as part of which an additional 55 Dutch detectives are stationed in Curaçao. The TBO investigates the connection between the underworld and upper world in Curaçao and St. Maarten.

The Police Chiefs of Curaçao, St. Maarten and the Caribbean Netherlands met with representatives of the RST management team mid-November to evaluate the manner of the RST’s deployment during the disaster, also in light of the hectic situation at that time.

One of the main problems was that little to no communication was possible with St. Maarten for a while, while the situation on the island was deemed unsafe with the lootings and robberies that took place.
It was determined during the meeting in November that some things had not gone as they should have and that the parties very much lamented this, said the spokesperson. Lessons were learned and it was decided to look at the future.

It was agreed that the RST will support the KPSM in the reconstruction period and that together with the Council of Police Chiefs the future detective cooperation within the Kingdom will be discussed. Concrete agreements will be worked out together in the coming period.

The RST is a formal collaboration within the Kingdom and its tasks are secured in the 2010 Kingdom Consensus Law on Police as well as a cooperation protocol on Kingdom level of 2001. The RST, which comprises detective personnel from the Netherlands and from the Dutch Caribbean police forces, combats serious and organised international crime on all six islands.

The complete RST team in the Dutch Caribbean consists of some 120 members with the majority working in Curaçao, but the team is very mobile and can work from any of the Dutch Caribbean islands.
The RST presents an important added value for the Dutch Caribbean law enforcement sector because it offers expertise in the area of forensic methods, including the analysing of digital footprints, financial expertise which is needed in money-laundering and other financial crimes, and the use of modern, sophisticated technical means of investigation.

The RST provides support to the regular detective departments of the islands’ police forces when needed in investigations involving severe, often shocking, crimes in case the local police force has insufficient capacity to carry out the investigation. The RST shares knowhow and expertise with the Dutch Caribbean police forces and other investigation services.

Generally, target areas of investigation for the RST are drug-trafficking, money-laundering, corruption and human-trafficking. In St. Maarten, the RST has helped to prepare multiple large cases that involved trafficking in firearms and drugs, sexual exploitation at clubs, liquidations within the criminal circuit, fraud and corruption. The RST also assisted with setting up the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) in 2016.

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