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Oct 28, 2003

Police employ new training for crowd control

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The public image of law enforcement authorities in the area of riot control has not been particularly strong, especially since the invention of the video camcorder and the proliferation of television stations only too eager to use them. Now very much aware that the whole world is watching, the police are taking steps to ensure that the next time a rowdy crowd gathers, the outcome will be different. Patrick Jones reports from Belmopan.

Sr. Superintend Crispin Jefferies, Director of Training

“The police, police by consent, so crime and disorder is a part of policing. The laws of Belize provide us with the authority to enforce many of its statutes. But to do so we need to understand what are the methodologies in dealing with crime.”

Patrick Jones, Reporting

Director of Training, Senior Superintendent Crispin Jefferies says the next cadre of police officers will have something even he didn’t have access to at the start of his law enforcement career, that is the knowledge of how to deal with the public from the get go.

Sr. Superintend Crispin Jefferies

“They are basically using a new format called KUSAB. It is saying that in the past police officers were trained on a knowledge-based program. Today it is dealing not only with knowledge, but attitudes and behaviour, and special skills, as well as understanding. So the word KUSAB is an acronym to abbreviate knowledge, understanding, skills, behaviour, and attitudes.”

But the change in attitude does not only apply to the way recruits are trained to be police officers. Starting in 2002 and continuing through September of this year, police officers at every rank have been trained in the new policing techniques, including how to maintain public order.

With the 2001 incidents in Benque Viejo and at Tower Hill in Orange Walk still fresh in the nation’s memory, Jefferies says those graphic pictures should now be a thing of the past.

Sr. Superintend Crispin Jefferies

“So at this time we can say that we are now equipped at the national level, from Toledo right up to Corozal; from Benque Viejo right on to San Pedro with equipment to deal with public order situations, and we have developed mobilization plans that will support our interventions in relation to public order management. The technique in crowd control is dealing with shields and batons. But as part of public order management, police officers are trained to deal with the public generally. So it is sometimes based on information, intelligence, the ability to get out there first, deal with the situation, talk to people and find out what is their problems and try and address their concerns before going in to the higher levels of dealing with shields and batons.”

Jefferies says that starting with these new recruits, the Belizean public will start to see the gentler side of an institution that has changed its name from a force to a department and now calls its riot squads “public order units.”

Sr. Superintend Crispin Jefferies

“Certainly that is our objective at this time, and I am certain that lot has been imparted. We will in the long term see the benefits of this or see the impact of this when we go out and do evaluation of the trainees that we are now training after they’ve completed these period here and they are on their probationary period, which would normally run for two years. So it’s a gradual process.”

But even with the best equipment and updated curriculum, Jefferies admits that it is only when the officers hit the streets that their training will kick in. And while there is a lot of distance to be bridged between law enforcement and the community they are sworn to serve, it’s important to remember that even the longest journey starts with the first step. Patrick Jones, for News 5.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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