Headline — 04 December 2012 — by Albert J. Ciego
Who “run tings” in San Pedro?

Tourism Minister or police? Female cop’s superiors did not know of her sudden transfer, without a replacement!

A female police corporal in charge of the Tourist Police Unit San Pedro Branch has been transferred back to Belize City as of Saturday, December 15, after she charged a female American tourist in court, allegedly against the wishes of Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia.

Woman Corporal Sharmane Young, a veteran tourist police officer of 15 years, told Amandala today that she is angry, because she believes that she is being punished because she did her job – to wit, she charged the American woman, Lisa Marie Merz, 43, a nurse from Syracuse, New York, with using indecent words, using insulting words, boisterous behavior, assaulting a uniformed police officer and resisting lawful police arrest.

Police said that they were on patrol along the beachfront in San Pedro around 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, November 24, when they saw and searched a man who they believe was selling drugs to the tourists. One of the tourists, a woman, began to curse at the drugs vendor loudly, saying that the drugs were fake. She had demanded to witness the searching of the vendor, and when the police declined her request, she allegedly began to shout profanities at them.

Corporal Young, who came to see what was happening, asked the tourist to discontinue her behavior, but the woman reportedly continued cursing at them on Barrier Reef Drive. Police claimed that after she was warned, Merz swore at the corporal again and that’s when Young told her that she was under arrest.

It is claimed by police that when they arrested Merz, she pushed Corporal Young to the ground with both of her hands, and began to utter more obscenities, after which, according to police, she resisted arrest by walking away.

Police who responded to the incident restrained Merz and took her into custody. While in custody, police say, Merz continued to utter profanities at Young.

She was given police bail and ordered to appear in court on Tuesday, November 27, before Resident Magistrate Sheraine Rodriguez. On that court date, Merz pleaded guilty to four of the charges, but not guilty to the charge of “assaulting a uniformed police officer.”

She was ordered to reappear in court on Friday, November 30, for a quick trial for the pending charge.

On Friday, however, she was found guilty of the charge of ”assaulting a uniformed police officer,” and fined. The total fines are as follows: assaulting a uniformed police officer, $800; use of indecent words, $100; use of insulting words, $100; boisterous behavior, $50, and resisting arrest, $300, to a total of $1,350, which Merz was ordered to pay forthwith.

According to the San Pedro Sun of Friday, November 30, 2012, however, Minister of Tourism, Manuel Heredia, Jr., had visited the police station to inquire about Merz after he received the report that a tourist was in custody and not properly treated.

According to the newspaper, Heredia was not happy when he was told that Merz would have to be detained until Tuesday, November 27, and that Corporal Young would take her to court on that date.

According to Corporal Young, Heredia had ordered that Merz be released immediately without charges, but the police did not release her and the charges were levied against her.

According to the San Pedro Sun, that same Saturday, November 24, the Commissioner of Police, David Henderson, had instructed that Merz be granted bail, which was done. Merz was then ordered to be at the San Pedro Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, November 27.

Of note, however, is the fact that Corporal Young, who had not been working on the island for long, was given an immediate transfer effective Monday, November 26, reportedly to Placencia, according to the Sun. She had asked for an extension of the date, to December 15, and was given it, but no one has been found to replace her as yet, and Young was given no reason for her immediate transfer.

However, Senior Superintendent Miguel Guzman, Deputy Commanding Officer of the Belize District Police (Eastern Division) told Amandala today, Monday, that transfers have a financial cost to them, and people are not transferred arbitrarily. However, there are inter-unit transfers which are done internally, he said.

Transfers are normally planned from Belmopan, Guzman said, and they at the Racoon Street Belize District Police Headquarters did not know about Corporal Young’s transfer, the notification of which should have come to them first, and then the instructions would have been sent to her through her unit headquarters.

Tourism Minister Manuel Heredia could not be contacted today, despite many repeated attempts.

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