A culture had grown inside Belize’s police personnel which contributed to a certain climate on the streets of Belize City. That culture involved the use of firearms to bring down suspects trying to flee, and so a kind of target range climate developed, on the police’s part, especially after dark.
What you have to understand is that an automatic handgun with a magazine clip of ammunition is really like a small machine gun. Once you pull the trigger and hold it down, then you release a barrage of bullets. This means you do not have to be a good or careful marksman to feel that you are taking care of business. You just pull trigger, and let lead fly.
The preliminary evidence suggests that an off duty policeman was walking home on Central American Boulevard around 1 a.m. on Sunday, September 8, when a couple perpetrators jumped him with robbery on their mind. He pulled his police issue .38 and fired warning shots in the air. Another off duty policeman, this one armed with a police issue 9 millimeter automatic, happened upon this action. He pulled his gun and sprayed bullets. He shot both the first off duty policeman and one of the perpetrators in the back. The off duty policeman died on the spot. The perpetrator was hospitalized.
This tragedy happened to the slain policeman, we submit, because it had become the norm for civilian suspects, especially those trying to escape, to be shot by policemen and for these matters to be handled in a hush-hush manner. It was only a matter of time before such a crazy accident occurred, with an innocent victim, because of the existing culture and climate.
Respectable, law-abiding society needs to remind itself, from time to time, that human life is sacred, that human life must not be sacrificed because of property considerations. Law-abiding Belizeans are very much frustrated because of the crime and violence in Belize City. In the absence of permission from the Europeans to carry out the death penalty on convicted murderers, respectable Belizean citizens began to feel powerless. The more macho of our respectable citizens began to think violently, and remember, most propertied Belizeans now appear to have gun licenses. As citizens became more frustrated, the lines between crimes began to blur. Thieves and robbers were equated with murderers and rapists. The thing is, on the spur of the moment and in the heat of action, untrained civilian citizens cannot be allowed to become judges and executioners. But, this was how some propertied citizens were beginning to think – like judges and executioners.
Sunday morning was a terrible tragedy. Under the pressure of crime and violence, Belize’s police personnel had begun to forget or ignore some of their guidelines. Civilian society was turning its head and pretending it was not seeing. Unfortunately, it takes a tragedy like this to force the propertied classes and those who represent them to accept how dangerous to all of us a vigilante society is.
Well, an unjust society is also dangerous. As the years have gone by, the suffering at the base of the Belizean pyramid has been taken almost for granted. There are only two political parties which have national credibility, and they both say the same thing, that we should look to foreign investors to come in and help us. Here is where the Belizean revolution has reached. Sad. In the old capital, this translates, at the base of the pyramid, to “every man for himself and God for us all.” In the early Sunday morning dark on Central American Boulevard, that prescription spilled violent death at the hands of his police colleague for a good and decent police officer.