New Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, who was appointed to the post on January 9 this year, told the press that his number one goal will be to reduce murders. Commissioner Williams said: “My main area of focus will be on reducing murders, and that will be done through concentrating on gangs and domestic violence issues, because those are the two leading causes of murders in our country.” (Later, Commissioner Williams added a third area he will focus on: nightclubs) An entire nation is hoping, praying that the new Commissioner will pull off the job.
Mr. Williams, a trained attorney who is a 27-year veteran of the national police department, is now top cop in a country that has become one of the most murderous places on earth. He has noted that a lot of murders in Belize are gang-related. That is not news. Ever since the US declared war on drugs, the murder rate in Belize has been escalating.
Cocaine, an illegal drug, is the main fare of gangs. Mr. Williams cannot reduce the lure of the drug trade. The US, the power in the region, the world, has set a policy that makes certain drugs worth their weight in gold. Hopefully, Mr. Williams can devise some new strategies that can reduce the tension between the gangs.
Mr. Williams has noted that domestic violence is one of the top two reasons why we have become so murderous a nation. It would be good for Mr. Williams to expand on this conclusion. He has his hands on a lot of information that has never been compiled, properly researched, and shared with the Belizean people. An informed people are a better people. An informed people will help find solutions to their problems, and murder is the worst of our problems.
Commissioner Williams has an enormous task before him, one that he can win, must win for us, and there are many thoughts (hopefully helpful) we would like to share with him (and all those leaders who are involved with addressing the crime problem) as he comes to the fore. We can’t cover everything in one essay but we can make a start.
Belize’s murder rate has increased because of the narcotics trade, but Belize was never really the “tranquil haven” we sing about in our National Anthem. That was a “period”, before independence, when we were under British rule.
They achieved it with a hangman’s rope and the cat (cat o’ nine tails), and jail. There was no delay in the execution of justice for murder. If the wrong man was found guilty and got hung, that was just too bad for him. The cure for rape was brutal and effective: the cat. Thus, with the hangman’s rope and the cat, and the jail, the violence within us was suppressed. Then came the end of the noose and the cat, and independence, and all hell let loose.
Confining ourselves to the Belize story, ours is a story of Europeans taking advantage of Africans and Mayans, and the well-off taking advantage of the poor. There was much humiliation of the Belizean male. We know that the Europeans invested in war machines and they conquered the world 500 years ago. They took Africans as slaves and they drove Mayans from their lands.
The African male slave suffered terrible humiliation. Not only was the male slave forced to provide labor, he had to accept the slave master taking his woman and having control of his children. The displaced Mayan male saw his lands taken, and his women living in the war zones taken by the invader.
We expect that Mr. Williams has a good knowledge of our history, and appreciates how that impacts our psyche, our culture. We cannot ignore the effect our past has on our present. Our past is embedded in our DNA. We haven’t exerted enough to study ourselves. There is great anger within a man who suffers such humiliation.
The humiliation of the Belizean male continues with our leaders’ failure to address our economic problems. The female in humiliating economic straits bears the same physical pain as the male but, for genetic reasons, and/or culturalization, females generally don’t react the way males do.
There is great stress in some areas of our country, and we vent our frustration in violent talk, and violence. It is within our nature to lash out. We cannot ignore the words we speak. It is written about man (Proverbs 23): For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he. What a man says rarely comes out of thin air.
When our present leaders wield the big stick, in the form of the “state of emergency” in some areas, they get about the same results the colonial master did with the hangman’s rope and the cat. But that is just suppression, a Band-Aid to hide a rupturing sore. Soon, all hell breaks loose again. It is hell we are living in. A few are numbed, a few hide their heads in the sand, and the majority of us cower in fear.
We can’t expect Commissioner Williams to address our economic problems, our poverty and the widening gap between the well-off and the poor, but it is within his scope to help address the problem of disappointing leadership. While he (and they) works on the stop gap measures to reduce murders, he can work on setting a good example, exhibiting the quality of fiber we need in this nation. There are many cures, for the ills are many, but we must start there.
Good leadership is critical for a nation. Good leadership can make a people better. Our politicians largely, sadly, have not set the best example. Too many of them are poor examples for our youth.
There are people who say we can’t expect our leaders to have more, better character than the society that produced them. That is not correct. People are exalted to positions of leadership BECAUSE they are BETTER than the rest, not because they are one of the crowd. An individual must exhibit exemplary character and talents to attain a leadership position.
Commissioner Williams should have arrived at his position through excellence in performing his duties, not through any capacity to play up to political leaders. It is not a perfect world. He will have faults.
There are people who will say that he couldn’t have risen to top rank in the police department if politicians didn’t have their tentacles in him. We are not about seeking faults. We are about adding lumens to a candle, so we will accept that he is as pure as the driven snow, and that is definitely the truth as related to his new title. As Commissioner of Police, Mr. Williams has no failure.
For love of country and people, and duty, he cannot allow the politicians to derail his mission. Belizeans aren’t dull. When a top police officer allows the politicians to compromise his job, he loses the respect and trust of the people. We will not reduce crime if we don’t trust our police officers.
If Mr. Williams stands his ground, other police officers will follow his lead. It will be beautiful when we have a cadre of good, strong, honest police officers who do their jobs without any fear of politicians. There are such types of men and women in the police department. They just need an environment that nurtures them and they will thrive.
The new Commissioner can do much to restore trust in our society. Much is being asked of him. If he does his part, he can be sure he will get the support of the people. We will know if he is doing his part. If he does his part, the murder rate will dip.