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Jan 29, 2021

Supreme Court Rules against B.P.D.’s Regulation – a Win for Cops with Dreadlocks!

Today, the Supreme Court handed down a big win for two police officers with dreadlocks. The Court’s says the Belize Police Department’s disciplinary action on females in the force with dreadlocks infringes on their freedom of expression, among other rights. Supreme Court Justice Sonya Young handed down that decision today. You’ll recall that in May 2019, five female police officers were facing internal disciplinary action because they failed to remove their dreadlocks. Two of those officers PC Shantel Berry and PC Alleeya Wade believed that it violated their constitutional rights. Berry’s position was that the dreadlocks were a step into the Rastafarian faith, while Wade saw it as an acceptable expression of her black identity. So, the cops took legal action. Attorney-at-law for PCs Berry and Wade, Leslie Mendez, says that this is a big win for racial discrimination against black women but that there is also a broader implication – especially for the decision-makers as it has implications on diversity.


Leslie Mendez

Leslie Mendez, Attorney-at-law

“The decision agreed, thankfully, Justice Young gave a position validating the positions of the female police officers and finding that indeed they violated their rights to freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, as well as freedom against discriminatory treatment. So, essentially those were the findings of the court.   This decision is certainly a celebration and again a validation of black women’s rights to expression and their right to express their identity and as the claimants indicated, for them it was really to resist against the notion that afro-textured hair and just generally traits and characteristics associated with persons of African descent is not acceptable or professional in the work space.   From that very limited perspective, it still means a lot. Looking at the judgment, and there is no written judgment at yet and that I am assuming will come shortly. But in the oral decision, it was clear that what the implications are is that it is an obligation or a call on decision makers to really take into consideration the implications on diversity when they are imposing what facially looks like a neutral regulation that applies to everybody the same. The right to protection against discriminatory treatment doesn’t only guarantee that you are going to be treated the same but rather it also guarantees that our differences will be accommodated and our differences will be celebrated. And so what it means is that when it comes to things that have implications on racial, cultural identity, as well as religious beliefs, if there is going to have a regulation that is going to infringe upon that to some extent then that infringement needs to be legitimate and it needs to serve a purpose beyond uniformity, for instance, in this case.”


The other attorney on the case was Anthony Sylvestre.

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