The Daily Herald – Police officers repent of extortion, say pay cuts led to desperate act

PHILIPSBURG — Two police officers went on trial Wednesday for asking for bribes. During an emotional session, in which both the male and female officer expressed regret, they were able to count on the support of family and members of the St. Maarten Police KPSM in attendance. But the prosecutor was relentless and demanded prison sentences.

Constables W. and M. have “caused enormous damage to the credibility of the rule of law and to the reputation of the police”, according to the prosecutor. “Those are big words, but they are also appropriate here. Officers who abuse their position for their own financial gain greatly undermine the trust that citizens should have in their police. Who else should protect them and investigate the crimes? »

It hasn’t gotten to the point where officers have taken bribes, but according to the prosecutor, that doesn’t change the fact that both are punishable. “The fact that the money was not paid is irrelevant in this case. And it was certainly no innocent joke. The extortion was planned and carried out in association.

The two police officers used information they had in the course of their employment to pressure a citizen into paying a bribe. They went to the man and told him that an investigation was under way against him and that they had evidence against him. But if the man paid the police $7,500, he would no longer be investigated.

The judge wanted to hear from the police officers themselves who they were and what led them to their act of corruption.

The 34-year-old brigadier, employed by the police for 12 years, could not hold back his tears when the judge mentioned his personal situation: a family of eight children, one of whom died. Three children lived with the man and his girlfriend, but due to government-imposed pay cuts, the family could no longer make ends meet. As a result, one of the children no longer lives with them.

“I see you even had to sell the kids’ bikes out of necessity,” Judge noted. The suspect cried silently.

“You have trouble with what I call these things, I realize,” Judge said. The father agreed that he feels guilty towards his children, especially towards the daughter who had to leave the house and for whom he is very worried. For the moment, it does not seem that she can return. “But I have a lot of support from my family and my colleagues in the police right now,” the suspect said. Family members and policemen in the crowded public section nodded in agreement.

According to the probation report, the St. Eustache-born suspect is a first-time offender who acted on impulse. “The most important criminogenic factor of the person concerned is related to his financial situation. He is under enormous financial pressure. From the pleading of his lawyer Sjamira Roseburg, it appears that the brigadier, after deduction of the rent of his house and other fixed costs, has NAf. 300 remaining each month to care for seven minor children.

The suspect has been under a lot of stress over the past year, which makes him emotionally unstable, and he suffers from depressive feelings, according to the probation service. “He is benefiting from his psychological treatment at the Mental Health Foundation. It is desirable that this treatment be continued.

As for policewoman M., from Aruba, the probation service is less lenient. “The suspect is a 40-year-old woman who can be classified as a repeat offender. In 2016, she was identified as a suspect for three offences. The case was settled by civil settlement. She was suspended from her job for five years and resumed her duties in January 2021.”

It is worrying that the officer committed a crime the same year she returned to police work, according to the probation service.

Lawyer Roseburg objected to characterizing the officer as a repeat offender. “M. has been in the police for 18 years. She has not been involved in such a dispute once in all this time. The case on her criminal record has been dismissed. It makes it strange that she can be equated with a criminal. No, she saw the possibility of earning a little extra money in times of financial scarcity. She never undertook to do this in a structural way, nor did she show that she had done such acts in the past.

According to the prosecutor, there is no doubt that the suspects, one a brigadier and the other a member of the KPSM observation team, are in fact capable of suppressing information or initiating processes to deliver information to the right people or otherwise incentivize them to action. that would be detrimental to a victim of extortion.

Victim De W. was visited at work by a woman who told him she had pictures of him with bad people and had tapes of things he discussed on the phone. She ordered him to pay $7,500 to avoid trouble and to go to the beach near the Bel Air Hotel the same day to hand over the money.

De W. did as he was told and went to the beach where two men were waiting for him. One of them asked him if he had spoken with the woman and if he had brought the money. The victim said he had no money on him. He asked the men for their identity cards and proof of the offenses he was accused of. The men then walked away.

De W. reported the extortion to the police on October 12, 2021. On October 16, he was heard from again. He repeated what was stated in the statement and described the woman and the man in more detail. He also said that on October 14, another woman came to work and showed him a photo that showed him with another person at the Buccaneer bar. He also gave a description of this woman.

The victim also said on October 16 that his son-in-law, who works at KPSM, asked him to come to the office the day before (October 15). When the victim showed up at the police station, he spoke to a woman whom he recognized as the one who had asked him for $7,500.

The national police requested camera footage from the company where the victim works. They show that De W. was visited by agent M. and then by a woman who is brought to the building by agent M. in his car. This woman had been asked by M. to show the victim the “incriminating photo”.

After the two officers learned that an extortion report had been filed, Constable W. called his team leader on October 30 and said, “I did something stupid. He confessed that it was his idea to extort De W. When he learned that the man had filed a complaint, he told M. that she should say it was a joke. Constable W. said to the team leader, “I just wasted 12 years of service in the police.”

Both officers were suspended following their arrest. “After the clients were suspended, they faithfully complied with the terms of the suspension,” their attorney noted.

Roseburg asks for a judicial pardon for the two officers. “Customers have been punished enough already, I think. If you come up with a proven statement, they will lose their jobs – 18 and 12 in the trash like that,” Roseburg told the judge. “Look at the case in the right context. These are not criminals you have in front of you. The fate of my clients is in your hands.

“The police are there to serve and protect. But who protects them?

In the room, a strong “Amen” resounded in the public part.

The prosecutor requested for Brigadier W. a prison sentence of 15 months, including 6 months suspended, 180 hours of community service, three years of probation and a ban on the post of police officer for five years.

For policeman M, the prosecutor requested 18 months in prison, including 6 months suspended. She would also be expected to complete 180 hours of community service, enjoy a three-year probationary period and five-year dismissal.

The judge will rule on April 13.