A groundswell of public dissatisfaction has arisen with the GSU’s handling of the Kelvin Usher affair
BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Sept. 28, 2017–In April 2010, the Belize Police Department added an elite unit which burst on the scene in camouflage paramilitary uniforms; faces covered with masks; and a bold acronym, in white, on the backs of their uniform – GSU, for Gang Suppression Unit.
Since its formation, a little more than seven years ago, the unit has acquired a reputation for brutalizing citizens, a fact buttressed by several Supreme Court rulings against them for the violation of citizens’ constitutional rights.
It appears that things are about to change, since the unit came into the public spotlight this past Sunday after it carried out an operation to destroy a marijuana plantation on a farm in Lucky Strike. In the operation, the GSU used gunfire, which terrified a 17-year-old minor, Kelvin Usher, a student of St. John’s College Junior College, and caused him to flee in the bushes, where he became lost until this morning when he was found.
A groundswell of public dissatisfaction with the GSU’s handling of the incident caused Prime Minister Dean Barrow to announce today at a press conference that the government will now take a closer look at the role of the unit.
Barrow made the announcement after he had a meeting with Minister of Foreign and Home Affairs, Hon. Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington, and the police’s top brass.
“I wanted for there to be a review and operational remit of the GSU,” Barrow told the media. “The events prove that the divide between the citizenry and the GSU is altogether too much for us to ignore. There is going to be at the very least a repurposing of the GSU, the kind of serious analysis that the circumstances warrant. At the end of that exercise, all options will be on the table,” Barrow stated.
Barrow went on to say that he needed to know right off why the GSU was directing its efforts at drug traffickers operating in a marijuana field.
“I would not have thought of that to be the expressed remit of the GSU, but I was given an explanation. More generally, I saw where there were other incidents reported that seem to involve misbehavior, irregularities, to put it mildly.
“I think we bury our heads in the sand if we don’t accept that there is a culture of mistrust with respect to the citizens and the police,” Barrow said.