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Jul 31, 2001

Police commissioner defends actions in O.W.

A day after police, B.D.F. soldiers and a group of protesters battled for control of the Tower Hill Bridge, Prime Minister Said Musa has appointed a Commission of Inquiry. That commission is chaired by Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh and includes former police commissioner Sherman Zuniga and Father Lazarus Augustine of the Catholic Church. According to a government press release, the commission will investigate the circumstances surrounding the issuance of a road transport permit and subsequent use of force by the security forces during the protest. In the meantime, pending the outcome of the inquiry, the Commandant of the B.D.F. has taken the step of suspending one soldier who discharged his weapon during the riot. That soldier, News 5 has learned, is Captain John Borland, the man who appeared to be in charge of the B.D.F. squad at the bridge. But as we will see shortly, Borland was not the only soldier or policeman shooting that day. In fact, in this special edition of News 5 live we will be reviewing all our crucial footage taken on Monday and the three News 5 employees on the scene will explain exactly what they saw and heard. But first to the day’s developments. This morning I travelled to Belmopan looking for answers to the many questions surrounding the incident. Cabinet was in session and despite our request, no minister of government would make a direct statement to the press. Instead, it was suggested that we see the Commissioner of Police. Despite what must be tremendous pressures from all sides, we found Commissioner Hughington Williams ready to thoughtfully and calmly speak his mind.

Hughington Williams, Commissioner of Police

“The B.D.F. were called out in support of the police, not to, as far as I’m aware not to engage in that sort of activity as a riot squad because our men had been deployed all over the country, consequently our riot squad would not have been available. So the B.D.F. was requested as a second choice. They had to be called on to support the limited man-power we had in the north.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“Shouldn’t they have a helmet at least?”

Hughington Williams

“Well I would have hoped that they would have the necessary equipment, but I can tell you, where riot gear is concerned, there is a shortage of equipment even in our department. I believe the B.D.F. might be experiencing the same thing. It has been over five years that we’ve been trying to get equipment and they just haven’t been forthcoming.”

Ann-Marie Williams

“So there is a shortage of helmets.”

Hughington Williams

“Shortage of everything. I have no problem in a commission looking at what took place. I do believe however, that some of what occurred yesterday could have been prevented if this matter had been addressed earlier. Yes, we were informed that there was a problem brewing and I directed the people in the northern districts to be prepared. As a matter of fact, I have been informed that there had been a check point and the men were spoken to and they seemed to been in agreement with what was spoken to them, and then they took off and blocked the bridge. It’s not that we weren’t prepared, they were prepared to the limit I think, that seemed adequate. It would have been nonsensical for us to go out there with a riot squad and just as a bus was passing through, then you would have heard other complaints coming out.

The police, and when they called on the B.D.F., have the responsibility to maintain law and order. If we look at this situation yesterday, there are two sides to it. There are those law abiding citizens who wanted the use of the road. It is our responsibility to maintain the free flow of traffic, and therefore offences were being committed there. Then when the option went higher, and there was the hurling of bricks and sticks and other stuff, then, people may not understand it, but the law provides that force being used against law enforcement officers can be opted to overcome that force being used against them. So if I am faced with a man with a big stick threatening to hit me, I have the right to hit him first. If I believed my life is threatened, if I am concerned that my life is being threatened, I could be killed by what is taking place, I have the right in accordance with the justifiable force and harm legislation, to go to the extent of killing that individual. That’s what the law provides.”

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