Editorial — 01 August 2008
The Kremandala family was absolutely stunned on Wednesday night around 9 p.m. when the news flash came that Travis Westby had been shot down. A grandnephew of the late Smokey Joe’s, it was Smokey Joe himself who had brought him to work at Amandala, and Travis was a model employee. In fact, just hours before his death, he had been informed that he would be promoted.
Our early sense is that Travis may have been killed because he lived in a Bloods-controlled area but worked in a Crips-controlled neighborhood. It’s just a guess. For us, ultimately, the murder was senseless. This was a quiet, strong young man who had no known enemies. You hear mothers and relatives saying this all the time about young, black men who are murdered in Belize City, but in this case we are almost completely positive that Travis Westby had no part in the wars that are raging on the Southside.
On Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, the police put up checkpoints on the approaches to the Belcan Bridge. It takes just a minute to create a traffic jam on Belcan. Everybody knows this. The effect of the checkpoint was immediate and chaotic, as people were trying to move home from work. If intended as a deterrent to crime, the checkpoints are only a band-aid, except at night, when they are more effective.
But any Southside civilian would know that the better police response to the surge in violence would be mobile patrols, targeting cyclists and working at nights in the hot spots. The problem with that “better response” is that it is more dangerous for police personnel to work mobile night patrols than to set up Belcan Bridge checkpoints at the end of the working day. The police are people, too. They prefer less danger and more safety.
It appears that the morale in the Police Department has been weakened by the feud between Edward Broaster and Chester Williams, who were senior superintendents until Williams was suspended shortly after the change of government on February 7 of this year. It is normal for there to be a certain amount of politicization in the leadership of the Police Department, the reason being that if you please your political bosses, then your career star will shine more brightly.
The PUP ruled for ten consecutive years, from 1998 onwards, and during Ralph Fonseca’s run as Minister of Home Affairs (Police), Chester Williams’ star truly shone brightly. In fact, Williams ascended through the ranks in a meteoric fashion, and he became a street and media superstar.
The radical change of government, from heavy PUP to heavy UDP, brought Edward Broaster to prominence. In effect, Broaster has assumed Chester Williams’ role. It appears that Broaster is a UDP favourite. As Broaster rose, so Chester fell. The conflict between the two has been personal for years, and it has not been resolved. The Chester versus Broaster matter has not gone away. Beneath the surface, it is bad for the police.
The police are not doing a good job of addressing the explosion of violence which began with the murder of Robert “Black” Jones on Monday, July 21. The explosion of violence could have been predicted, because Black came from the same block which had been attacked with a hand grenade in May, and had not appeared to retaliate in kind. In the gang code, Black’s block felt they had to react violently to his murder. One thing leads to another with these trigger happy young gunmen, and now they have started to shoot “civilians.”
Nowadays, you don’t have to be a young combatant to get killed. Ask the families of Leon Sutherland and Travis Westby. Ultimately, the blame must be placed on the community. We clearly cannot control our children and grandchildren, and we continue to pay the price for that. We can’t expect the police to solve the problem, but we have to demand that they do a better job of addressing it.