Wednesday, April 17, 2024

National News: Police Department introduces new measure to tackle crime in 2020

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A leaked memo from within the Belize Police Department invaded social media on Saturday, December 28th, giving the impression that police were abusing their level of profiling persons at all vehicular checkpoints. The leaked memo instructed police officers to stop and search vehicles where groups of persons were traveling, get a full description and photograph the vehicle. At the same time, all information of the occupants was to be obtained and each person photographed as well. Belizeans across the country and even activists raised concerns and questioned the legality of this process. Commissioner of Police (ComPol), Chester Williams immediately clarified that the document circulated was rescinded and rectified saying that the measure was to target criminals traveling on the highways and moving within districts to engage in crime.
During a press conference on Monday, December 30th, ComPol Williams explained the new measure and stated that the process is supported by the Constitution of Belize and the Police Act. “The Constitution provides that every citizen is protected from arbitrary search, it does have limitations, and says that nothing contained in this Constitution shall be deemed to be a violation of the rights if it is authorized by any law that makes reasonable provisions,” Williams explained. “Section 44 of the Police Act, gives police the authority to search without a warrant, any person, who the police have reasonable cause to believe is carrying any unlawful goods or item,” Williams added that when police conducts checkpoints, they cannot just arbitrary search people and that officers will be briefed on this part of the measure.
ComPol indicated that they are aware of criminal elements using the highways to commit a crime, as the new measure comes in the wake of several persons being abducted and later found dead in isolated areas along the highways. “For far too long, our highways have been used by criminals to do as they please,” Williams said. “We cannot any longer sit and allow the status quo to continue. As a department, we want to do what we can to ensure that our law-abiding citizens can use our highways in a safer manner. Safer from criminal activities and from drunk drivers.” He further emphasized that the measure is not intended to target everyone but known convicted criminals and those that police have reasonable cause to suspect.
While the new measure seems strict, ComPol said that law-abiding citizens need not worry about this process. “The check-points are not done in such a way that it will impede the free movements of our law-abiding populace,” said Williams. He guaranteed that there would be no impediments in the movement of persons who commute to work every day and need to reach in time. At the same time, they should not expect any delays when heading back home at the end of the day. Williams asked the general public to have patience as the police department will try to enforce this new strategy without causing any inconvenience in the movement of people on the country’s main transportation roadways.
The Belize Police Department also hopes to install permanent vehicular checkpoints at certain locations throughout the country. Some of these potential areas include near the Haulover Bridge on the Philip Goldson Highway at Mile Four on the George Price Highway as well as in the Capital City of Belmopan and Dangriga Town in the Stann Creek District.

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