Continued from Page 9 Fri. Sept. 30, 2017 Issue No. 3120 of the Amandala
At this time, however, I find it fitting to revisit a story aired on Channel 7 and done by Jules Vasquez in April 2011, one year after the GSU was sanctioned and six months after it started operations under the Command of ASP Marco Vidal.
Jules Vasquez reporting:
Officer-in-Training: “Load!””Make weapons ready!”
This is the MT-9, a weapon designed strictly for law enforcement. It uses 9 millimeter rounds but works like a machine gun. The GSU is the only police unit using it and yes, they are also the only unit authorized to wear masks.These are only two of the aspects of specialization afforded this elite unit.We caught up with them during training for a scenario the capture of what they call a high value target:
“This person has no regard for human dignity, and the information is that this person will shoot it out – will fight his way out if the police come to apprehend.”
The simulation was carried out with absolute precision.The spotting, the coordinated approach and the smashing entrance; the exercise is run with precision and regularity because this is policing for a new level of engagement with the criminal element.
ASP Marco Vidal, Officer Commanding GSU: “My policy is that we must train and continue to train so that our officers perform at the highest level when we are dealing with this problem, because it is only so that we will be able to make the level of success that we want to achieve at the end of the day.”
That kind of performance based assessment is espoused by ASP Mark Vidal, who conceived of the gang unit after getting training with FBI Anti-Gang Task Force and got ministry support to implement it:
Marco Vidal: “I submitted a proposal; eventually it was considered at the highest level – National Security Council. Eventually it was approved.”
Not only approved but fast-tracked, funded and outfitted – by mid-October it was launched and operational. As Vidal explained when he took us on a tour of the GSU Headquarters, it is a specialized unit within the police department, but the most distinctive one, it has its own intelligence, investigative, analytical and operational arms, and its own base at a private property in Belize City – which is a home on the Northside. Where every space and every wall has been converted for some kind of police work – the master bedroom is covered with maps of the city – broken down into zones and areas of color coded gang concentration – denoting which gang controls which turf. And while that’s the bedroom, in the kitchen, instead of washing dishes, they are cleaning guns. And while this completely self-contained unit is in Belize City, it answers directly to the Commissioner of Police, not the head of Eastern Division:
Marco Vidal: “It does not operate under the command of Eastern Division, but it’s still – for administrative purposes- there is some requirements to get certain things from Eastern Division’s budget, so to speak.”
But while that distinction is administrative – what makes the GSU stand out is its mission statement and objectives plastered all across the walls of its headquarters:
Marco Vidal: “The general objective of the unit is to dismantle the gang structure and to bring individual gang members, who have committed crimes to justice.”
Folks, GSU is a paramilitary arm of the police which answers only to the Commissioner of Police and is open to too much abuse. But how could it be out at Lucky Strike doing a drug bust now? Isn’t this against its stated mission as pronounced above by the man who founded it? I leave you with what Supt. Andres Makin, Commander, Gang Suppression Unit said at yesterday’s press conference:
“On Sunday, September twenty-fourth around ten a.m., I got a call from one of the members of my unit giving me certain information in regards to a marijuana plantation in Lucky Strike area of the Belize District. As a result, I gave the directives for them to have proceeded to the location. They proceeded and at around three p.m. or thereabout, I got another call from the team leader who had conducted the operation indicating to me that yes, the operation had been conducted and apparently a marijuana plantation had been discovered and one person had been arrested. They also further briefed me to the effect that during the operation a male individual had also escaped from out the marijuana plantation.
Note – he did not get information about a gang or gang activity … no independent person, such as a JP was present to witness the counting and destruction of the field … no accountability about the drugs and that is why we hear: “They eradicated all the marijuana that were in the immediate area, in the farm, and it amounted to around one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty plants,” says Makin. The lack of accuracy leaves many more questions.
GSU must be dismantled now!