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Dec 30, 2019

The Police Department Introducing New Measures for Vehicle Checkpoints

Social media was abuzz over the weekend, following a leaked memo from within the Belize Police Department.  It prompted commentary from various sectors that the department was ramping up its level of profiling. Earlier this year, residents were up in arms when police officers began intercepting people and photographing them as part of the stop and search process. Well according to the leaked memo, effective immediately at all vehicular check points, “Police officers are to ensure that whenever they stop and search vehicles in which a group of persons are travelling in, a full description and photograph of the vehicle is taken and documented. Likewise, all particulars and photograph of occupants in the vehicle gotten.” Residents took to social media questioning the legality of the process. Today, ComPol Chester Williams clarified that the leaked memo was rescinded and rectified. He also clarified that the process is supported by the Constitution of Belize and the Police Act.


Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“Our search will be targeted. I have always said that we know who the criminals are and those who use our highways to commit criminal activities. And so we will venture to target only those persons who we believe—because again, when you apply the law—and I want to take you to section nine of the Constitution which deals with the right from protection of arbitrary search. While the Constitution do provides that every citizen is protected from arbitrary search, it does have limitations. And it says that nothing contained in this Constitution shall be deemed to be a violation of the rights if it is authorized by any law that makes reasonable provisions. And so while it gives you that right, it also specifies limitations. And so having looked at section nine and what it says in terms of any other law, I will now take you to section forty-four of the Police Act, which then gives the police the authority to search, without warrant, any person who the police have reasonable cause to believe or suspect is carrying any unlawful goods or item. And so again, when the police are conducting checkpoints, we cannot just arbitrarily search people. We have to ensure that there is reasonable cause to suspect that whoever will be searched is engaging in something illegal. And so officers will be briefed on this. Under the Constitution, it speaks to the fact that the right can be limited for public safety, national security, public interest, public health and many other things. And we see this as fitting within the ambit of public safety and national security. For far too long, our highways have been used by criminals to do as they please. We cannot any longer sit and allow the status quo to continue. As a department that is responsible for your safely, we want to do what we can to ensure that our law abiding citizens can use our highways in a more safer manner—safer from criminal activities as well as being safe from drunk drivers.”

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