On Monday, November 12, a mother and a grandmother of the Mayflower Street area complained to the media that two minors in their family had been roughed up by police – one of them is a female minor, reportedly 13, who they allege was forcibly stripped and roughly cavity-searched by a female cop, and the other is a teen boy who the mother said narrowly escaped being sexually invaded with a baton, only after the boy told a group of male cops, who ridiculed the boy’s genitalia, that his step-father is a police officer.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of National Security issued a statement saying that it “is deeply concerned about recent reports of an alleged inappropriate search of a female minor during a police operation conducted in the Mayflower area of Belize City.”
That operation took place on Friday, November 9, when area residents reported that 30 to 50 police officers were dispatched to their area, which was blocked off and searched. Notably, the Mayflower Street area was not one of the areas that were, the day before, declared a “special area,” giving the police broad search, seizure and arrest powers, which they could execute without being required to have a warrant.
Of note is that Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of National Security, Ret’d Col. George Lovell, had told our newspaper the day before that the Ghost Town area would be included in the five “special areas” to be declared “crime ridden” zones. However, when we cross-checked with the data available to us, we did not find the Ghost Town area included in the approved areas.
Responding to public concerns over the possible abuse of powers by security forces, Col. Lovell also gave us an undertaking that police would be professional in carrying out their duties.
However, the complainants from the Mayflower area describe a harrowing experience they said unfolded in broad daylight. The grandmother said that her granddaughter, the minor, approached her trembling with fear and later explained that while she was asleep in the lower flat of their family home, she felt someone pulling off her clothes. She awoke to find the police ordering her to strip, and a female officer wearing gloves pushed her hands up her vagina—all this without a guardian or a justice of the peace present.
Another relative said that her son, who had been arrested about a week prior, was taken to the police station by officers who threatened to push a baton up his anus, but desisted when the boy told them the name of his step-father, who is also a police officer.
The statement from the Ministry of National Security said that, “As of today, no complaint has been lodged with the Police Department, the Ministry of National Security or the Human Services Department of the Ministry of Human Development and Social Transformation. Nevertheless, based on the reports in the public media, the Police and Human Services Departments have launched a joint investigation into the matter.”
We could not get an update today on where those investigations stand.
The ministry said, “…no stones will be left unturned to determine what the facts are.”
It said that should any officer be found to have conducted any inappropriate search during the operation, that person or persons “will be dealt with swiftly and accordingly.”
(Amandala thanks KREM Radio for the Mayflower Street interview.)