CITIZENS ORGANIZED FOR LIBERTY THROUGH ACTION (COLA) PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TOWARDS A NEW DIRECTION FOR THE POLICE DEPARTMENT AND COMMUNITY
BELIZE CITY, April 4, 2013 – The Belize Police Department (BPD) has a sworn duty to the people of Belize to enforce law and order in the community and create conditions where Belizeans can live in peace with each other and are free to live their lives in concurrence with our laws and regulations.
While carrying out that duty, the Department is obligated to act in a professional and responsible manner, not allowing the power entrusted to them by the people of Belize to be misused and abused. At the same time, citizens must recognize the validity of the department’s remit and do their best to abide by the law and cooperate with the department to enforce the law.
Two separate incidents reported this week illustrate the degree to which extreme behavior colors the society as a whole and underline the importance of community cooperation and action.
First, no citizen should be made to feel terror such as that felt by Adrian Daniels and the other young men allegedly rounded up by Police in the Independence area this past weekend and harassed, and in the case of Daniels and a 15 year old minor, terrorized apparently for the simple reason that they are “foreign” to that area.
COLA urges a proper and thorough investigation by the Professional Standards Branch of the Department, including the suspension without pay of all the officers identified by the complainants, in this case. We remind Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie of his recent commitment to seeing that his officers do not breach the public confidence in the performance of their duties and in fact rebuild that confidence in the wake of several still-unsolved deaths in 2012 in which Police officers were said to be involved. The Department, we submit, cannot afford and would find it difficult to recover from this further stain on their reputation.
With regard to the Department’s procedures for interrogating and questioning suspects, which was the premise under which these men were detained, the Ministry of National Security should procure inexpensive audio recording devices for the taking of statements in Police stations and a bank of audio recordings and written witness statements kept for future reference in both police brutality and criminal cases and that an appropriate legal officer in addition to a Justice of the Peace be present when such statements are taken to see that those statements are properly and legally recorded.
Secondly, we condemn without reservation the murder of Police Constable Berchel Ramirez on Tuesday night in Roaring Creek. We find it difficult to understand the circumstances of the case and urge that this be investigated as well and the perpetrators brought to justice. No motive is justifiable if it means taking the life of an innocent individual who harmed no one.
Our society is dependent on law and order. Liberty is not for a few privileged, but for the common good of all.
President of COLA