The Ministry of National Security has appointed a team that should help improve the public’s confidence in the department. Why? The Ministry has appointed and launched the Civilian Complaint Review Committee that will see complaints against police officers, BDF and Coast Guard followed through. The committee is to primarily review complaints lodged at the Professional Standards Branch and provide the ministry and minister with monthly reports on its findings. The Minister, John Saldivar has appointed retired police commissioner Gerald Westby to chair the committee.
Minister of National Security Honorable John Saldivar: “We will have a team of well respected and upright members of the various communities countrywide to participate as members on this Committee. Their function will be as I said to ensure that civilian complaints from the public as it relates to all our Security Forces whether it be Police, BDF or Coast Guard are properly dealt with and in a timely fashion and the system for holding Security Officers to account for their conduct and behavior is effective and proportionate. Public interest in ensuring fair play will also be the focus of this Committee however in the long run the real value of this Committee will contribute to improving the performance of the security forces and reducing the likelihood of the same sort of behavior and incidents that have been occurring.”
The Minister says that he and his Ministry will use the information to keep the public informed on the progress of complaints. The committee should also help give directions in improvements of the ministry’s disciplinary systems. The committee will meet once a month and will be supported by liaison officers from the police, BDF and Coast Guard. Chairman Gerald Westby explained more.
Gerald Westby: “Once a complaint is made it must be completed within 60 days investigation, no less than 60 days to investigate and once they satisfy that there is substance to the complaint then the person at fault must be served with a copy of his charges whether he is going to be charged Disciplinary or … at Magistrate Court with the copy a copy charge. The important thing for us is to make sure that people have confidence in the system, that their complaints are dealt with expeditiously, that they are given feedback and these are the things that we will be enursing so my first task will be to receive all the outstanding complaints as it relates to the Police in particular, civilian complaints and then I will be looking at, the Committee will be looking at it at our first meeting next week and then I will updating the Minister and then we will be monitoring to see that these complaints are dealt with expeditiously and timely, ensure fair play because much too often sometimes civilians do make complaints which are untrue. I can recall vividly they had a case in Independence where allegations of rape was made against Police only to find out that it was not true.”
And if you are concerned over transparency, the former commissioner and Minister Saldivar say there is no need.
Gerald Westby, Chairman: “They always say “once a cop always a cop” so why place an old retired cop in charge of the Committee because he may have bias to Police but on the other hand who not best to appoint than a former Police Officer who knows the system well and who can ensure that fair play is across the board for both as it relates to Civilians and as it relates to the Police.”
The committee includes a representative from each district. These have already been appointed and are from corozal, Ian glory of the Red Cross; Baldemar Gomez, a teacher from Orange Walk; Martin Griffiths, a businessman of Belize; Rodolfo Marin of Cayo ; Sarita Kerr of Stann Creek and Celia Mahung from Toledo. The Ministry will hold a public awareness session on the Committee in each district starting January, 2019. The plan is to open an office in each district. According to Minister Saldivar, the Ministry will provide the members with a small stipend.