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Thursday, July 18, 2024

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Demand better from police — withoutthe bashing

EditorialDemand better from police — withoutthe bashing

As if our Police Department didn’t have enough negative issues to deal with, they now have to address the disturbing incident this week that luckily didn’t turn tragic: the intoxication of more than two dozen children and adults who unknowingly ate marijuana sweets. There is an ongoing investigation, reports say, to find out all the missteps that were made, and who were involved. Unfortunately, just as the Tuesday Amandala headline stated, police will be policing police. The police desperately need a completely non-police body to oversee investigations into matters like these.

The best report we could get from the police end of the incident is that it is an extremely unfortunate case of negligence and circumstance. As far as we know, our police officers are not used to handling marijuana edibles. They ACTUALLY look like sweets. Far, far more dangerous goods have been known to disappear from their exhibits room. The product was reportedly thrown in the garbage, and that should have been the end of the “sweets”, if it were not for some desperate person at the dump (all persons who rummage there are desperate) who found them and proceeded to take them to market. And there’s where all hell broke loose, because the “confectionery” which was infused with marijuana ended up in the mouths of unsuspecting children, and a few adults.

The morale and the image of our police might be at an all-time low. Several police officers who did very terrible things had their reckoning in court this past week. Three officers who bludgeoned a man they had detained, beat him until he died, were sentenced to years in jail, and another officer awaits sentencing after being found guilty of manslaughter, killing an innocent youth. Other officers are in prison: some awaiting trial after the shooting and killing of a young man on a motorcycle, because they thought he had fired at them; some for “forgetting” a young man they had detained in a police van, which led to his death; some for involvement in the illegal drug trade. An extremely tarnished officer is incarcerated while he awaits his date in court to answer to the horrific charge of murdering three innocent Belizeans.

It is no small number of officers who are on remand or out on bail awaiting trial. The Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Kareem Musa, says that is an indication that the process to weed out rogue officers is working.

Most police officers are not highly paid, and with so much wrong around them, it is inevitable that some of them will trip and fall. There’s a lot of money around the US-sponsored drugs war against marijuana and cocaine, and many are tempted to facilitate the passage of the drugs through our country. Unsurprisingly, many frontline officers and even some high elected officials sell their services to the illegal trade. Some time ago, the police realized that the vast majority of individuals they charged with murder were walking out of the courts as free men, and to vent their frustration some of them began acting like violent criminals themselves. Police officers are subjected to the worst abuse from too many members of the public, and when they break down, retaliate, cell phones appear on the scene to record their disgrace for all in the nation to see.

A persistent call has been for our officers to receive better training, so that they understand their duties better, so they can better tolerate the assaults from the ungenerous public, so that they prepare better cases for the court. Improved training could only be a plus. Officers are trained before they get to work in the society, and part of the training is geared toward divesting them of their personal flaws. Belizeans in general would be less flawed if our country didn’t shirk on its responsibility to provide proper programs for our youth.

Life is real. Some officers are selected and trained to deal with violent elements — hardened criminals. Only an ostrich wouldn’t know that there are individuals in our streets with weapons that should be found only in the armory of the BDF.

The men and women in the police ranks are ours, and for them and for all, our business must be to make them better. One constant over the years since the standard in the department started eroding is bashing. Some people say they bash to make our officers better. Well, has it? After years of bashing has the department gotten better? No! When it comes to the human heart and mind, mental abuse never produced a good harvest.

At the very least, we should have respect for the uniform, even if we’ve had some bad experiences with cops who are rogue. Apart from not being highly paid, officers sometimes work in dangerous conditions; they see corruption daily, and the temptation from the dishonest rich is always present, for them to make a quick but illegal buck. Cops who disgrace the uniform must be severely dealt with, by the law, but it must become the rule that we respect, if not love, our officers.

Waterloo thinks judge might have “unconscious” bias

During and subsequent to the vetting process of Waterloo Investments Holdings’ proposal to build a cruise port at the present Port of Belize Ltd. — a project which has been rejected twice by the Department of the Environment (DOE) — the group charged unnamed GoB environmentalists with seeking bribes, appealed the DOE decision to reject the project, decided to take the GoB before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, found fault with two of the members of the Tribunal that had been set up to hear their appeal, and now has announced their disapproval of a third member of the Tribunal, Justice Patricia Farnese.

The Amandala said that legal representatives of Waterloo had written to Justice Farnese expressing fear that given her “impeccable credentials as an environmental activist and expert” she could have an unconscious bias against the $300 million development project which involves major dredging, the disposal of the spoils of dredging near the shore, and land-use change, among other things. Waterloo is calling for the judge, who is the chairman of the Tribunal, to recuse herself.

The story unfolding before us gets more incredible by the week. The law allows the developer to lodge an appeal, and for a Tribunal to be set up. The law calls for an individual who understands business and project development, an individual who is trained in environmental science, and an individual versed in the law, to form the Tribunal. The task of the Tribunal is to see if it can find anything salvageable in the rejected project, and if so to amend it and send it back to the DOE.

Anyone knows a judge on this planet who gives carte blanche to developers in a world that is in the grip of climate change? Anyone knows a judge in Belize who doesn’t think the reef in our country is a world treasure? If there is such a judge, Waterloo is looking for them, because Justice Farnese might subconsciously have a bias against their project.

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