I would like to express my concern about the future of the justice system in Belize. In light of this, I would like to plead specifically to our Prime Minister, Honorable John Briceño, and also to the Minister of Home Affairs & New Growth Industries, Hon. Kareem Musa, to do everything in their power to dismantle the incompetence of the police officers in Belize. In this letter, I will provide clarity on the matter, specifically at the Belmopan headquarters, and give recommendations on what we the citizens need them to improve.
Firstly, I want to start by sharing a few lines from Erwin X’s poem “Nothing,” in which the poet states, “Ya dah day, Babylon stop me fi nothin, Rub me down fi nothing, Punch me eena my mouth fi nothin, Mek my lip start bleed fi nothin. Dem ker me dah station fi nothing. Dem release me next mawning and no tell me nothing! And if da neva fi nothing, Dem woulda bad fi charge me fi nothing! And yet me no fi seh nothing.”
This poem, by Erwin X, is not only relatable, but it is taught in Belize’s education system in literature classes and reveals the incompetence of the police. I experienced a similar situation very recently, when admittedly I made a mistake driving against the flow of traffic in Belmopan. At the same time, the police were patrolling and headed toward me. They pulled me over, and I complied. When the officer approached me, I knew I was in the wrong and apologized. The officer told me to open the back doors of my car. I told him he could open it if he wanted to because I had been in similar situations before, as the tint on my car windows is somewhat dark. However, the officer told me he did not want to be shot. I was very appalled by his statement, as it was just my mother and me in the vehicle at the time, and I assured him that his statement was very offensive to me. My mother opened the doors for the five officers that surrounded my car, revealing that it was just the two of us. I was ready to accept the ticket for driving against the flow of traffic; however, what came was the threat of being imprisoned. I had not expected this to have escalated that far, and I mentioned that I was fully aware I could not be arrested for something so simple, and I had done nothing worthy of an arrest. The officers kept me there, demanding that I be silent and not be defensive in any way toward the officer to whom I was exclaiming that he was being unreasonable and, in Creole, “chancey” towards me.
Also, a few weeks back, my family was almost killed in a hit-and-run accident. The following day, a suspected van was located. When the crime scene officer arrived, he had taken some paint from the hood of the said van that matched the color of my family’s car. They were taken to the lab at headquarters for inspection. Five days after the accident, we went for a follow-up report, having recovered camera footage from a business in the location in which the accident occurred. You see, on the night of the accident, I managed to recover a video of the white van bolting away from the scene. Ironically, my family and I were the ones conducting this investigation on the van we found the day after the accident. We were doing the job of the police. When we spoke to the superintendent in charge at the headquarters, he referred us to an officer from CIB who was not the investigating officer on the case who took the report on the night of the accident. Not only did the investigating officer who took the report that night struggle to compose the report, but she also did not enter it into the system. Days after, the officer from CIB mentioned that the report was still not entered. My dad and I exchanged glances at that point and felt defeated. Had they been murdered that night, I would have been scrambling trying to get assistance from a police force that lacks the skill needed to fulfill an investigation or show evidence of any attempt. We left with bowed heads and a lack of hope in the justice system.
Going back now to my story about being pulled over, I mentioned all of this injustice and incompetence when I was pulled over for mistakenly driving against the flow of traffic. I mentioned to the officers that the van that was recovered the day after my family’s accident was not even insured, yet it was never impounded. Also, the officers on the scene did not even bark once at the suspected driver who was allowed to drive off with an uninsured vehicle, which is an even more grave offense than driving against the flow of traffic. I felt like pulling out my hair, and admittedly I cried and cried because there is much need for change, and I felt like there never will be.
That brings me to the question: what can be done? I believe there is a great need for the police officers to be trained more adequately during their six months at training school. I read a letter written to Amandala in 2007 by a constable, who stated, “there is no supervision in the Police Department. So-called supervisors, including some senior officers, cannot even record a proper statement, much less a proper report. It is no wonder why we lose so many cases. I have concluded that my six months at the Training Academy was an almost total waste of time.” I believe that since 2007, these issues have not been rectified. The citizens are tired of justice not being served and being treated like animals. We plead to you, set the Police Academy in order and ensure supervisors can help and not abuse new officers, as they are the future of our justice system. Our country needs good governance. We put the fate of a better society for all in your hands; meanwhile, we citizens will aim to return the same respect given to us.
Thank you for your time. Stay safe, all. God Save Belize.
A Concerned Citizen