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Apr 7, 2021

WPCs Wade and Berry Found Guilty of Violating Police Regulations

Police constables Shantel Berry and Alleeya Wade have been fined by the police department after being found guilty earlier today by a disciplinary tribunal for appearing on our Open Your Eyes talk show.  The pair spoke candidly of the discrimination they faced as law enforcement officers for wearing their hair in braids and dreadlocks.  Notwithstanding a legal victory at the end of January, they were found to be in contravention of the department’s media policy which bars officers from speaking openly on professional issues.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

“Guilty as charged, despite a favorable Supreme Court decision in a pioneering case against the Belize Police Department.   That’s the ruling handed down by Superintendent Reymundo Reyes who adjudicated an internal matter brought before a tribunal this morning.  Police constables Alleeya Wade and Shantel Berry stood accused of breaching the rules of the law enforcement agency which restricts officers from speaking on matters relating to the department.  The infraction was committed on February seventeenth when both officers appeared on Channel Five’s Open Your Eyes morning show.  They were among several claimants who had just won a suit against the BPD which, up until then, had prohibited women from wearing their hair in braids or dreadlocks.”


[File: February 17th, 2021] WPC Alleeya Wade, Belize Police Department

WPC Alleeya Wade

“Six of us were together and we came together because I can’t understand, if I am doing the proper thing and doing my job to the best of my ability, why my hair is a problem?  I had it neat.  The way I have my hear now is not the way I wear it at work, I wear it in one at the back, so I take it to the back and pin it up.  It doesn’t touch my collar and my hat fits.”


The argument that was put forward by attorney Leslie Mendez on her clients’ behalf was well-founded and Justice Sonya Young ultimately decided in their favor.


Leslie Mendez

[File: January 29, 2021] Leslie Mendez, Attorney-at-law

“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.”


In her own words, Police Constable Shantel Berry described the situation as an ongoing issue, particularly after Commissioner Chester Williams assumed office.


File: February 17th, 2021] WPC Shantel Berry, Belize Police Department

WPC Shantel Berry

“It’s been a back and forth thing between us and the department and, you know, later down the line when he became the commissioner, it was sending out memos saying it’s time to cut the locks off or giving us letters, well me, I received a letter saying that I had to remove my locks and from there it was on to being disciplinarily charged within the department for not removing our locks.  So I decided that well, I am already this far into it, I am not going to back out now, I’m gonna keep fighting and, you know, push for what I believe in and so here we are today after our victory giving this talk to you guys now.”


Regrettably, it was that same appearance that landed the pair of officers in hot water once again with the department.  Following their participation as guests, charges were laid against Wade and Berry.


Chester Williams

[File: April 1st, 2021] Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“I don’t want to go into much detail where that is concerned because it’s a matter before the tribunal, but we do have a media policy and once you’re going on any media platform and you’re going to discuss matters pertinent to the police department, you must obtain permission from the Commissioner of Police.  If it is that you’re going to discuss your personal issue then we don’t really bother about that, and so we must understand that we do run a disciplined force or a disciplined department and it’s expected that our members are going to adhere to the disciplinary structure of this organization.”


News Five is reliably informed that the fundaments of that organization will once again be challenged as the decision of the tribunal will be appealed before the National Security Commission, as well as the Supreme Court.  The constitutional challenge will likely be for breach of freedom of expression.  Both officers have since been fined a hundred and fifty dollars each, to be paid in two instalments.


Isani Cayetano reporting for News Five.

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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