The suspension of Police Constables Tyrell Rowley and Samir Medina has been lifted and they have now been officially placed on interdiction. They are the police officers who beat down Jamir Leal and his brothers in front of Playa Bar and Grill in San Pedro on New Years night. But the decision was not taken as a result of the Leal brothers pressing charges. On the contrary, according to Acting Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, the Leal brothers have refused to press charges against the officers. The Acting Commissioner said in a press briefing today that he made the decision to charge the men internally based on what is depicted on the video. Here is the update he provided on the course of the investigation after investigators of the Professional Standards Branch visited the island twice.
DCP Chester Williams: ““The first time that they went they met with and spoke to the two persons and the two civilians. The civilians expressed that they do not wish to proceed with any matter either criminal or internal against the two police officers. I subsequently saw the news and saw where one of the persons concerned gave an interview to the media which I found to be very interesting and based on that interview I redirected the members of the Professional Standards Branch to go back to San Pedro to do a re interview of the individuals hoping that they would have changed their minds based on what I saw and what was said in the interview and again that was done and they still refused to cooperate with investigators. In light of that we are left where we cannot proceed with any criminal charges against the officers but from a view of the video footage which I have said from the inception is very disturbing I have nonetheless directed it to the Professional Standards Branch to proceed with the disciplinary charges against the officers. I believe that notwithstanding the fact that the persons concerned refused to cooperate. The video footage should be sufficient for us to proceed successfully internally as it clearly shows the conduct of the officers that they were engaged in was such a way that is predidital to the good order and discipline of police officers and so PC Tyrell Roley and Samir Medina were placed on disciplinary charges for two counts each of act of precedence to good order and discipline. One count is for their conduct in beating the individual and the other count is for the fact that they allowed a civilian to also beat on the individual while that individual was on the ground.”
But while the Leal brothers are not pressing charges, they have told investigators that they will be taking legal action.
DCP Chester Williams: “ They have not indicated that they intend to retaliate or do anything criminal where the officers are concerned but they have expressed the fact that they have obtained the services of an Attorney and they will be suing the officers and the Police Department by extension the Government of Belize so when that lawsuit comes then we surely will have to deal with it.
But why are the brothers not cooperating with the department? The Acting Commissioner says he sees no reason for any mistrust especially since the investigators are not attached to the San Pedro Police Formation. That aside, what of the conduct of Jamir Leal. He has personally admitted his criminal wrongdoing and stated that he is willing to face the consequences, yet, he has not faced any charges. Williams says the department can only act if the woman who Leal aggressed presses charges.
DCP Chester Williams: “ In the case I would believe that both Leal or those persons who were involved in the incident at the bar should have been charged and the police officers should also have been charged for their act because to be frank with you I don’t see what could justify the actions of the police. It is clear in the video that these two young men were on the ground helpless and the actions of the police beating at them I don’t see how that could be justified in anyway. They were involved in a brawl before, the fact is that you already have the matter under control and then what you have to do as a police officer is to detain them and take them to the police station and not beat upon people the way they did.”
In our interview with Leal last week, he told Love News that he essentially agreed to not press charges against the police officers after a conversation with an officer following the incident. Here is what he said.
Jamie Leal Assault Victim: “Yes I spoke to the Commissioner and he asked me if I wanted to press charges and he said that he isn’t threatening me or anything, he knows that officer did wrong and he will be punished because he explained everything to me like how he will be lowered from the ranks and stuff like that but he will still be out there, he will still be in uniform and he can still try to hurt me or do something to me right.”
The Acting Commissioner reiterated the department’s zero tolerance to police misconduct and strongly condemned the officers’ actions. Following the incident, the Police department came under heavy criticism on social media for the incident and the actions taken against the officers and others who have behaved similarly. Williams says it’s a matter of doing things by the books.
DCP Chester Williams: “Whether or not charges were to be levied against him should not be a matter for the police. It is a matter for whom he had committed the crime to who I belive is a woman who was at the bar which I believe was his girlfriend or ex girlfriend so I don’t see how that could have been and even so then I could have hoped or wished that he could have expressed that to the investigators from Professional Standards Branch and we surely would have found a way to deal with that.”
The incident was caught on video and went viral on social media on January 1