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Sep 30, 2019

Commissioner Says Crowd was Wrong; Police Acted with Restraint

There was outrage over the manner in which members of the Belize Police Department carried out the arrest of a teenage minor in Belize City last week. The incident involved five officers manhandling a fifteen-year-old escapee from the Princess Royal Youth Hostel who was being apprehended for return to the facility.  But in carrying out the arrest, things got physical fairly quickly and the young girl was punched and choked repeatedly by the officers.  The actions of the policemen have since been questioned and the police department didn’t respond to queries last week. Today, Commissioner of Police Chester Williams responded to the video and says a lot of what transpired was encouraged by the onlookers. 



Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“I personally watched the video as well with the police and the young girl. I think that the only thing that I would want to suggest went wrong is that the police spent too much time with her trying to get her to cooperate. If you have a prisoner resisting, you use necessary force to subdue them and take them away. I saw the police officers try to exercise great restraint and while a few people did try to applaud the police for that, there were some who were very harsh with the police. But we try to instill in our officers to not use unnecessary force and I think that is what the officers were trying to avoid.  But while they were being restrained, the crowd was rallying behind her and telling her to do this and bite the police and that may have motivated her to act the way she did. So, it is something we need to look at and officers need to be able to understand that when they are in a hostile situation they need to limit the amount of time spent in that hostile situation. So, you grab your prisoner and move away.  When the police is detaining somebody, there are some people who believe that a policeman cannot detain a female. That is not true. A police man can detain a female. The only restriction is that a police man must not search a female but in terms of placing a female under arrest, a policeman can do that. We must try to, as best as we can, exercise certain degree of restraint. We don’t want to use force that is unnecessary. Whatever force is used and the law does allow that under the criminal code, under sections thirty-two to thirty-six, which gives the police the authority to use certain force, justifiable use of force and harm, and so restraining a person who has committed a crime is something that the police will do and while we may be allowed to use force, the law is that we are to only use the force that is necessary to subdue that person and not anything that is beyond reasonably necessary so that is the balance that police officers must always strike in terms of persons who they are placing under arrest.  I happen to know the male and female officers who were there at first. Believe me, they are quite rough and tough police but it goes to show again that these officers were exercising restraint. The woman alone, she, I am sure would have been able to detain that child. I guess to avoid problems so as not to have to use unnecessary force, they waited for other officers to come hoping that with more officers present she would have been more cooperative and would have been easier to get her into the vehicle and take her away. I believe the child would have cooperated more, had it not been for the crowd that is pushing her. So, if there is anyone to be blamed it would have been the crowd that was there pushing the child to do something that they know the child should not have been doing.”

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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