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Nov 21, 2018

A Civilian Complaint Review Committee to Investigate Cases of Police Misconduct

The Ministry of National Security has formally introduced a new working group headed by retired Commissioner of Police Gerald Westby whose mandate is to assist in the investigation of matters involving police officers.  The Civilian Complaint Review Committee is made up of representatives from each of the six districts and will be working in partnership with the Professional Standards Branch to look into allegations of abuse and misconduct.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Grievances against members of the Belize Police Department are a common occurrence.  Almost every week, a complaint is either lodged at the Professional Standards Branch or an aggrieved individual comes before the media to decry the actions of law enforcement officers.  Those matters, whenever they are attended to internally, often go quiet beyond the initial public criticism, with little or no follow-up on the part of the media.  Most importantly, however, are the outcomes of those cases and whether disciplinary or legal action is taken against persons who are found guilty of criminal wrongdoing.

 

John Saldivar

John Saldivar, Minister of National Security

“While we continue to work hard at bringing about the kind of changes in our crime rates, we are often plagued with undesirable and unfortunate events by a few of our officers where they find themselves on the wrong side of the law.  Whenever these types of incidents occur they don’t only cause the department or institution to lose public trust and confidence, but it erodes the very successes that we fight so hard to achieve.  This is further compounded by the fact the internal investigations into the alleged misconduct of our officers generally drag on for unacceptable periods of time and officers are placed on interdiction and do not provide any gainful employment for the government and the people of Belize.”

 

Today, the Ministry of National Security has taken an important step in launching a Civilian Complaint Review Committee.  The members of that taskforce, along with the Professional Standards Branch is charged with submitting all complaints received from the public against the security services which will be reviewed by the committee on a month-to-month basis.  Former Commissioner of Police Gerald Westby has been selected to lead the committee.

 

Gerald Westby

Gerald Westby, Chair, Civilian Complaint Review Committee

“I will chair the committee, and they always say, once a cop always a cop.  So why place a cop, an old retired cop in charge of the committee because he may have bias [towards] the police?  But on the other hand, who not best to appoint than a former police officer who knows the system well and who can ensure that fair play is across the board as it relates to civilians and as it relates to the police.  The committee will be comprised of myself as chairman, we have a representative from each district.  Three of them are here with us today and unfortunately three were [unable to make it due to] scheduling, but they have all agreed to support and participate wholeheartedly.”

 

The initiative is welcomed by ComPol Allen Whylie, who also refuted the notion that the Professional Standards Branch has been somewhat delinquent in addressing the cases that are brought to its attention.

 

Allen Whylie

Allen Whylie, Commissioner of Police

“As the Commissioner of Police, I am fully in support of the establishment of this Civilian Complaint Review Committee.  Commander PSB who is here is aware, she knew this committee would have been formed and she is fully onboard, just like all other members of the Belize Police Department.  As commissioner, I do not condone wrongdoing.  We investigate, once we have a formal complaint, and we try as much as possible to expedite those investigations.  I disagree with you in terms of us, or PSB sitting down on complaints because from time to time there are delays.  Sometimes people make complaints and then they become unavailable or their witnesses do not show up or are reluctant to cooperate.  So there are a number of reasons why sometimes complaints are not completed as expeditiously as we want, but I can assure you and the commander is here, she can speak, there is no way she has sat on a report and has not done something.”

 

It’s a somewhat conflicting position, in the face of what the minister himself has openly stated.  In the interest of expediency, there will now be a sixty-day period to investigate cases and dispense justice where necessary.

 

Gerald Westby

“The minister has rightly pointed out that far too often complaints drag on far too long.  So the terms of reference, and you will be given a copy, is saying that once a complaint is made it must be completed within sixty days of investigation.  No less than sixty days to investigate and once they are satisfied that there is substance to the complaint then the person at fault may just be served with a copy of his charge, if he is going to be charged disciplinary or at the magistrate’s court with a copy of the charge.”

 

Other members of the board include, Ida Herrera as administrative secretary, Baldemar Hiram Gomez, Martin Griffiths, Rafael Marin, Sarita Kerr, Ian Glory and Celia Mahung. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.


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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