BELIZE CITY, Sun. Jan. 29, 2017–At the beginning of the year, it appeared that the Belize Police Department was overwhelmed by the spike in violent crime, especially on the south side of Belize City. Nonetheless, the department’s high command has been out pounding the pavement with its “Meet and Greet” program designed to cultivate trust in citizens for the police’s community crime fighting methods.
While the police high command emphasizes Meet and Greet, however, the rogue cops in their midst continue to resort to what could be dubbed “Meet and Beat.”
This is a story about the senseless beating of a 12-year-old standard 4 Salvation Army Primary School student, who suffered an unnecessary assault on his freedom of movement at the hand of a “meet and beat” policeman who was patrolling with other officers in a police mobile patrol unit on Cemetery Road on Friday, January 27, sometime around 11:00 a.m.
Stephanie Smith, 43, who resides at 9 Dolphin Street, sent her 12-year-old son on Friday to take food for his 15-year-old brother who is attending Gwen Lizarraga High School, because there were no classes for the younger child that day.
Smith, in describing what occurred after her son had dropped off the food and was returning home, said: “He rode along Central American Boulevard and then turned into Cemetery Road but as he was passing a drug store he saw a police patrol vehicle that was parked on the side of the street. The police signaled him to stop and told him to put his hand on his head. The driver and some other policemen who were dressed in grey and black camouflage fatigues got out of the vehicle.”
“They asked him his name and he told them his name is Ryan Leslie. One of the policeman told him, ‘my name da Leslie too,’ and then punched him in his face,” Smith related.
Smith said that her sons hardly go outside their house. “I no mek dem go nowhere, because I don’t want them to put gun in their hands, fu shoot nobody pickney,” remarked Smith.
Ryan, who had returned home after the beating, was summoned by his mother and aunt, in the presence of reporters, so that he could show the swelling on his face that is still visible.
Ryan, in explaining what happened after the policeman hit him for no reason, said “the man just tell me mek I get back on my bike and go my way before they have to deal with me more. The other policeman, started to laugh.”
Ryan and his family went to the Racoon Street Police Station, where they were given a police medico/legal form and he was taken to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. A doctor classified his injury as harm.
Smith said that when she took back the medico/legal form to the police station, one of the policemen told her to think carefully before she presses charges, because they could talk to the policeman. “I told them that I want to press charge, because he has no right to do that to my son.” said Smith.
Smith, a single mother who is employed at the BDF camp, explained that she still has a bullet inside her since she and her daughter were shot while at their home last January.
“Every minute I drop down, because of the bullet in me that is getting rusty and I don’t have the money to take it out,” Smith revealed, and she added, “the bullet is still in my back and when the weather gets cold my back get so stiff, I can’t even walk.”
The “Meet and Greet” program was initiated by Assistant Commissioner of Police Chester Williams after he took over in July, 2015. He had talked about a new way of policing, the stated purpose of which was to foster better relations between the police and members of the public by meeting with them and gang leaders. He believed this would pay dividends where the successful prosecution of difficult cases was concerned.
Some officers, it appears, may have “mis-heard” ACP Williams, and may have believed that he said “Meet and Beat.”