BELIZE CITY, Wed. Jan. 30, 2019– Darrell Usher, 37, a police corporal, was detained on Sunday, January 27, for 48 hours after he allegedly got into a fight with a man with whom he had been gambling.
During his time at the Queen Street Police Station, Usher somehow was able to take a cellphone into the cell block, which he used to take pictures of the deplorable conditions of the bathroom at the station. He later posted the pictures on his Facebook page.
In his post, he said that despite the fact that the person with whom he fought had requested no court action, he still had to spend 48 hours at the police station. Referring to the pictures that he posted, he also said, “This is the place [that] me and [other detainees] have to eat and then sleep [afterwards], on the ground. Just because someone is detained, they should not be [placed] in this s***hole.”
Usher said that the detainees could not sleep in the cells properly because the sewage system is backed up and waste water comes from under the ground and enters the sleeping area. Some of the pictures Usher posted also showed walls that were stained with human feces.
Usher said, “During the stay at the ‘nice hotel,’ we had to be inhaling, I would say, years of people’s waste.” He also said that he had spoken to someone who worked at the station who told him that in the first two days they began working there, they became sick and the doctor had told them it was because of the unclean environment.
Usher charged that officers in higher rankings don’t care because they don’t have to go into the cell block. He said that he was “hoping the change in the ‘big boss’ (Commissioner of Police) would bring better for people and police, but I guess most things [are] a front [and] behind closed doors, all remains the same.”
The pictures are indeed hard to stomach, and they caught the attention of the Human Rights Commission of Belize (HRCB), which issued a press release expressing their “deep disappointment with the images shared publicly and the chain of omissions which has taken the facilities back to this point.”
In the release, the HRCB stated that as far back as November 2014 they, along with activist Yaya Marin Coleman, had worked with the Chief Justice and ex-Compol Allan Whylie to secure the promulgation of the “Guidelines for Interviewing and Treatment of Persons in Police Detention.”
The HRCB also stated in the release: “We had urged, at that time, several safeguards to guarantee the maintenance and management of the lock-ups nationwide. The top brass of the police force appeared equally disgusted with the state of affairs. Surfing the relevant news archives, we will realize that this tends to be a recurrent problem.”
HRCB said that they will be in communication with the newly appointed ComPol, Chester Williams, to “afford him the opportunity to reaffirm and refresh the department’s commitment to minimum standards of human decency.”
ComPol Williams said in an interview with the press today that he is aware of the unsanitary conditions of the bathrooms, and he has seen the release from HRCB. He commended the commission, and said that he has invited Kevin Arthurs, the vice president of HRCB, to have a meeting with him today as well, to see how they can collaborate on the issue.
Williams also said that he had known of the bathroom situation even before PC Usher posted the photos on Facebook, and that he had already started working on rectifying the issue.
The ComPol mentioned that the very same area was recently repaired and it makes him wonder how it could have gotten so deplorable within such a short period of time. He added that it is not the officers who created the mess in the bathroom, but rather the detainees who damage the facilities. Williams said they’d have to repair the bathroom in a way that would prevent it from being damaged.
Williams laid out two options that the police department has. The first is that they will have to redo the bathroom, including removing the tiles that are currently there to prevent urine from seeping under and creating a stench. He said that they would need to apply some kind of paint and “facing” on the bare cement to prevent water or urine from seeping into the cement foundation.
Williams said that if the bathroom is left within the cell, it will be placed at a lower level than the cell’s floor so that the water from the bathroom does not run onto the sleeping area.
The second option would be to remove the bathroom from the cellblock and designate another area to be used as the detainees’ bathroom. The detainees would then have to be escorted to the bathroom. He said that, with the second option, the police would be aware who is damaging the facilities, since they would know who is using the bathroom at any particular time.
ComPol Williams said that either option would be a costly endeavor, but the facility would be constructed/renovated to last longer and to create a healthy environment for the detainees. He said that as soon as they receive an estimate, they will be writing to the Ministry of Finance for assistance with the renovations.
As for a short-term solution, Williams said that instructions have already been given for the area to be cleaned as much as possible. He added that the Constitution says that it is really the prisoners’ responsibility to clean their surroundings. He said that the police appreciate their responsibility to ensure that the prisoners are treated humanely and that the facility is clean. But this does not include areas where the prisoners are able to clean.
In regards to the detainees sleeping on the floor, Williams said that they are also considering putting bunks to use for sleeping, but if there is an excess of prisoners, not all will be able to use the bunks.
Next on the agenda, according to the ComPol, is figuring out how PC Usher was even allowed to have a cell phone in the cellblock, and where the breakdown in procedure occurred. Williams said he has already tasked the Professional Standards Branch to investigate this.