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Nov 30, 1998

Changes ahead for police, B.D.F. and immigration

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In his wrap up of Police Week last Friday, Minister of National Security Jorge Espat announced a number of changes and improvements to the Police, B.D.F. and Immigration Departments to deal with the crime problem. Among these is the appointment of a Strategic Security Review Committee to recommend a national policy for Belize’s defense and security. The five-person team will be chaired by Permanent Secretary Allan Usher and includes the B.D.F. Commandant and Police Commissioner as well as two civilians. Espat says the changing face of Belizean society requires changes in the way we combat crime. He says Belize must adopt new strategies against criminals and look at policing in a new way. Among the changes to the nation’s security forces is the scheduled growth of the police force by ten percent in 1999 and another ten percent in the year 2000, the retraining of members of the Tourism Police and their incorporation into the Police Force, the establishment of juvenile and domestic violence units to work with the Ministry of Human Resources, the appointment of a British police training advisor, an increase in the off duty officers pay from $4.50 to $6.50 per hour and the appointment of an attorney and paralegal public officers to the prosecutions branch. Changes in the B.D.F. include computerization, the relocation of the Salt Creek Gallery Range and the B.D.F. Maritime Wing from the Fort George area to Ladyville, an allowance for B.D.F. volunteers and the establishment of a Military Museum at Headquarters in Ladyville as well as the allotment of funds for new uniforms, boots and radio equipment. In terms of immigration, Minister Espat announced that the Refugee Department would be closed and a refugee desk established at immigration headquarters in Belmopan. Refugees would also be required to have valid work permits and no longer be given ten acres of land. To combat illegal entry into Belize, immigration offices will be opened in Corozal and Orange walk, police officers will be replaced by armed immigration officials and the Northern and Western border points will be upgraded and the I.N.S. computerized. There will also be a crackdown on those who knowingly hire illegal immigrants and permits will no longer be issued to those described as “waitresses”. Finally, the national forensic services will be enhanced and the old morgue no longer used.

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