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Jul 3, 2018

Community Policing Training Wraps up in Belmopan

A training programme by the Israeli government that started with controversy, ended quietly today in Belmopan. For a week, the police department and civilians received training from the Israeli instructors on best practices in community policing. The concept is one that is already being implemented in crime infested areas, but it is the instructors that came under fire because Israel has traditionally supported Guatemala, which has a claim to Belizean territory. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

It is the hope of the Belize Police Department that the participants in a weeklong crash course on community policing will be able to apply the knowledge they’ve acquired in the outreach process.  The objective for the men and women who have taken part in this initiative, has been to learn how to effectively engage with the citizenry.  Deputy Commissioner of Police Chester Williams has been a proponent of community policing from its introduction to the country.

 

Chester Williams, Deputy Commissioner of Police, (Operations)

Chester Williams

“Community policing is very important, especially in today’s era of policing.  Gone are the days when police used to police in isolation of the public.  We must police now in consultation with the public and when we look at the concept of community policing, it is one where the police must now leave the offices and go out and meet with the public and speak with the public and find out from the public what are their ills.  And then, in conjunction with the public, they arrive at some solution to be able to deal with those issues.  We are at a time now where we are seeing that the public has become more hostile towards the police and one of the ways in which we can cure that hostility is through community policing.  So we’re happy to have received this training.”

 

Those sessions, however, were led by a pair of instructors from Israel.  The announcement that Belize had accepted an offer from a country that has been so closely aligned with our hostile neighbors west of the country was met with strong objection.  Dr. Orlando Pelayo has been a Special Constable for a number of years and recognizes the need, as well as the importance of the training, regardless of who the instructors are.

 

Dr. Orlando Pelayo

Dr. Orlando Pelayo, Special Constable

“Presently I am the president of the Special Constables organization in Belize.  I have served the Belize Police Department as a volunteer for many, many years.  Coming to this course, personally I was a bit skeptical because, as you know, the media and there was a big demonstration, you know, against the principles of Israel.  Personally I believe that the Belizean people were brainwashed, in the sense that I am a participant and I think I was here about a week and a half.  From my experience, no such thing.  The Israelis that came, the participants they came to enhance the Belizean people, teaching us to live together, sharing with one another.  We were divided up into six groups, so my group went into the Salvapan area and basically what we did, we did a survey of the entire area.  We looked at the crime, we looked at the garbage, we looked at the unification of the villagers and basically at the end of the day we tried to merge the police and the community, letting them know that the police department is not their enemy.”

 

But with growing cynicism and resentment towards law enforcement, a relatively quiet area such as Salvapan may not be the ideal testing ground for what the officers and their civilian counterparts have learned.  That, says Dr. Eran Israel, is a widely held misconception.

 

Dr. Eran Israel, Instructor

Dr. Eran Israel

“The whole idea of community policing is very simple, one clever policeman who is suitable for one neighborhood has to know the language, the tradition.  He needs to speak with people and he needs to understand the needs.  He needs to be part of them and he is the bridge between the community, the municipality and other agencies.  Now, it doesn’t need much help.  It doesn’t need much money or budget or whatever, it needs volunteers and it needs cooperation from the mayor, from the municipality.  This is a major partner.  If it could be implemented which would mean that mayors in municipalities will cooperate with community policemen, you will have safe cities.”

 

Since becoming a Special Constable, Pelayo has focused on the King’s Park neighborhood of Belize City, to ensure that his community is mutually responsive to the efforts of the police department.  The difficulty, he says, is identifying positive leadership.  That challenge also holds true in Salvapan.

 

Dr. Orlando Pelayo

“For some reason, leadership is a problem for them.  They don’t know how to begin, they don’t know how to organize.  Like, for example, they were saying, “Well, you know, we were calling the mayor of Belmopan and the mayor doesn’t want to see us.”  I said, you know why that is happening, it’s because you need to organize yourselves.  You need a chairman, you need a treasure, you need a vice chairman and when you call the mayor and say, “Mayor, this is the chairman from Salvapan.”  He will welcome you.  So together we can do a lot of things but we need to unify.”

 

The training also included participants from the Youth Enhancement Services, and other areas of the private sector. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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