The Belize National Security Strategy 2018 – 2020, states: “Our national vision is for a Belize of peace and tranquility, where citizens live in harmony with the natural environment and enjoy a high quality of life”.
This is definitely a political goal. I will focus on Belize’s murder rate as the predominant index of living in harmony and a high quality of life of the Belizean populace. I view the security force, in particular the police, as an agent and a reflection of the political leaders’ demeanor.
In the modern world, Belize cannot survive without its law enforcement. This speaks volumes that the state’s soft power or moral authority is weak, but its coercive power is exercised through mainly the police.
I hold our political class accountable for the society they created during their governance. Most policemen just follow orders to keep their jobs. The culture is usually a direct result of the wishes of the political directorate. In my view, the police that sometimes abuse their power are empowered by our political elite.
My evidence is that every year the Ombudsman’s Report describes police brutality as the major government abuse of the populace and nothing meaningful is done by the higher ones in government. This is very political, but is a major feature of both PUP and UDP administrations. The electorate blames the police, but I blame our political class. Either they are incompetent, or apathetic, or it suits their purpose.
The development of the militarized unit of our police signals that our political elite do not intend to improve the quality of life of everyone, but to suppress those who are marginalized and turn to crime.
The link between poverty and crime, especially murder, is undeniable. In other words, to decrease crime, especially murder, would involve improving the living standards. Belizeans would enjoy a high quality of life. Our political leaders have been trying crime suppression using the security force for decades, and it has been futile. It is not the fault of our security forces, but the responsibility of our political directorate.
As a Jamaican adage says, they give basket to carry water.
Thirty-eight murders occurred in the first quarter of 2020, while 32 murders occurred in the first quarter of the previous year. By my quality of life index, the Belizean quality of life decreased by 18.75%.
In the second quarter of 2020, there have been 12 murders, while there were 34 in 2019.
This is an increase of quality of life of 64.7%. It is skewed data because of the lockdown and State of Emergency. If our leaders can achieve this improvement in quality of life without lockdown and a State of Emergency (SOE), that would be magnificent.
No one would think, using Western liberal democratic standards, that a lockdown and State of Emergency is a high quality of life.
Le Chatelier’s principle states that if stress is applied to a system, that system will act in a way to offset the stress.
Using this principle, if the police militarize, the criminals militarize, and an arms race is precipitated. In fighting crime, force is sometimes necessary, but when you strip even criminals of their rights, you tell them through action that there are no rules; like the Wild West, some of them will become Billy the Kid.
The more amoral the state gets, the more star power the criminal gets. There are two aspects of war: propaganda and operations. The state, in its actions, must always be perceived as doing the right thing, and I cannot justify taking away anybody’s rights and expect to have moral superiority.
The state is more powerful than an individual, and that is why it must be held to a higher standard. SOE is a political expedient, but it weakens the legitimacy and moral authority of the state.
I am sure crime-fighting does not need to use an SOE, which, in my view, dehumanizes everyone living in the area, and causes irreparable socio-economic damage to everyone who lives in the area. With improved investigative and forensic skills, crime can be fought not only with brawn, but with brains.
Based on the complexity theory and LeChatelier’s principle, criminals will use more force just like the state. If the state uses strategic tactics instead of brute force, the criminals will follow suit. There could be an increase in cyber crime and the like.
Again I ask, what is being done to ensure that more Belizeans do not join criminal gangs and turn to crime?
There are two kind of education: street and school. Both can give you money and ladies, but street knowledge is quicker, easier and more accessible, so many will choose to survive by criminality.
Not everyone wants an academic education. Trade education – mechanical work, plumbing, electrical work, barbering, cosmetology and masonry — must be taught from primary school for those who are not willing to go the traditional educational route.
Children in Belize are being given a diet of academics that I like, but I realize that human beings are not mere machines, and school should not be a factory producing people who become clerks, policemen or another part of the bureaucracy.
No Belizean should be discarded. Policing is vital, but it is palliative, and not corrective. If building a prosperous society was easy, every country would be peaceful and prosperous.
I will paraphrase Bob Marley: until a person is not superior and another inferior, it is war!
Brian E Plummer