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Jan 26, 2023

ComPol on Police Prison Vans; Will It Be Replaced?

Remember Derrick Uh? He is the twenty-year-old Cristo Rey villager who died inside the back of a police prisoner van in Corozal back in August of last year. There was an outcry about the use of the vans and at the time, Commissioner of Police Chester Williams had committed to replacing the vans. Today, when the media caught up with the ComPol, we asked for an update. Here’s what he had to say.


Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“The prison vans we have are one of the most, safest means of transporting prisoners worldwide. Those vans are not unique to Belize, even in the U.S. and other first world countries it is those type of transport that they use to ferry prisoners. But we do understand the concern of Belizeans following the death of Derrick Uh. And even though Derrick Uh’s death was not attributed to the van, it was attributed more to human error, negligence on the part of the police officers who had control of the van. With that said, myself, the minister and the C.E.O., we are in discussion to see how we can replace the vans, but at this time our next option is to transport the prisoners in the back of a pickup which I don’t think is safe; it is more risky than the van itself. What we are going to do, we will have to approach the Ministry of Finance to purchase for us some new vans that we can customise. I can say that we have, through the Ministry of Finance, purchased one van for Prosecution Branch in Belize City to transport prisoners from Belize City to Hattieville Prison. But we need to get one for the south, one for the west and one for the north. It is going to take some time considering the financial constraint that the government does have. And as much as we have purchased that one van for Belize City, to make it conducive to transport prisoners, we are being charged eighteen thousand dollars to convert it.  That is to put the mesh wires, to put the separator between the driver and the prisoners because we have to customise the van to make it more conducive. But I want to appeal to the people to just give us some time. We are working on it to replace these vans. In the meantime, we implore upon our officers to ensure that they follow all the protocols where the vans are concerned to ensure that there is no repetition of Mister Uh’s. Directives have been given that the only time those vans are to be used will be when prisoners are being taken from the police station to prison and will not be used as a holding cell at no event. And I think there is where things went wrong. And once it is used in that manner, there is no way that the police will arrive at prison and forget that he had prisoners in the van. There is no way that he will get back to court with prisoners and forget he got prisoners in the van.”

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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