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May 2, 2019

Police Memo Says Elaborate Hairstyles Pose Work Hazard for Women Police Officers

Dezerie Phillips Magdaleno

A memo relating to the enforcement of Section Seven of the Department’s Standing Order has been circulated throughout the department. According to the memo, one of the reasons for the ban on dreadlocks is the possibility that these police officers would not be able to be identified in general because of the hairstyle. Another reason for the ban, according to the memo, is that the hairstyle is a work hazard for the women police officers. According to Mendez, both reasons are farfetched and contrived. 


Reproter

“How does the hairstyle affect their policing duties?”

 

ACP Dezerie Phillips Magdaleno, Commander, Eastern Division

“If you see dreadlocks, the style itself prevents the officers from wearing their headdress in the first place. It poses a security risk for the officers and we cannot allow that to continue to happen. This is no prejudice to any culture or religion or creed. It has to do with the rules and abiding by the rules.”

 

Reporter

“The country’s laws are based on the constitution and the constitution allows an individual the protection of the right of expression. These women can rightly say that their hairstyle is an expression protecting by the constitution.”

 

ACP Dezerie Phillips Magdaleno

“They can say that. Interpretation of the law is one thing and what you do is another thing. We have to bear in mind that when these officers joined the Belize Police Department, they did not join with this kind of hairstyle. I will go back and I will say the standing orders are very clear. We cannot and we will not, we are not prepared to allow anybody to override rules. If you are not satisfied with the terms and conditions of the rules then by all means, if you are talking about constitutional and freedom you have a right to leave. You can apply to leave.”

 

Reporter

“Miss, we all know that dreadlocks is not a hairstyle that you can easily wash out. So you are saying that you guys want these women to shave their heads? Is that it?”

 

ACP Dezerie Phillips Magdaleno

“We are not telling them what to do but take it out, is take it out. In the same light that it is not easy to take out, it was not easy to put in.”

 

Leslie Mendez

Leslie Mendez, Attorney

“The way that I initially understood it that it is saying that the hairstyle would possibly disable or hinder people from being able to identify police officers. To this day I am not too sure what it means. So, I thought that it was contrived. I am not sure that if you are  not able to distinguish them among each other or unable to distinguish police officer as oppose to civilians. But then you have the issue of uniforms. So that was a bit difficult. The second one, I thought that it appears to be well intended. It says that it may pose a possible work hazard because it may be used against them in a possible physical altercation. We understand that. You know the police, being a police officer has certain risk and they need to mitigate that against whatever risk. But if you, I think that that takes on a very limited view of dreadlocks and what can be done with it. We provided to the Department a picture of the way that one of the officers has style their hair and you could see that it is up and perfectly secured.”

 

ACP Dezerie Phillips Magdaleno

“And even if you have it up, what we are looking at the Standing Orders say that there should not be any elaborate head decoration. Period.”

 

Late this evening Commissioner Williams told the media via WhatsApp that having discussed the matter with his senior management team, it was decided that the matter will be submitted to the Solicitor General for legal advice. The disciplinary hearing against the women is now on pause while the department awaits the SolGen’s advice. Williams says, “This is being done in the interest of fairness to the officers as well as to ensure the department does not incur unnecessary expense or waste time in court fighting something that may be able to resolve otherwise.” So for now, the appearance of the female officers before the Disciplinary Tribunal is on hold pending the review by the Solicitor General.

 


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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