The Supreme Court has ruled that the Belize Police Department’s policy against dreadlocks is unconstitutional. The case was before Justice Sonya Young this morning who handed down the judgment in favor of the five women police officers. Back in May 2019, the five women were disciplined internally for refusing an order to get rid of their dreads. After the matter was made public, disciplinary proceedings against the officers were put on hold while the department obtained legal advice. The women proceeded with legal action and were represented by attorney Leslie Mendez. In an interview with the Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams today he stated that he has no issue with the ruling and they will adjust their policies accordingly.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “That matter is long behind us. I even forgot about that matter because the truth is the female or the officers involved they have been working and we have no issues, some of them have been promoted even with their dreadlocks and the court ruling is the court ruling that’s the reason why we have a court system. The court looks at laws and where the court finds that certain laws or certain rules are inconsistent with the constitution it is the court’s duty to point it out to us and then we must make amends to our policies and so I have absolutely no issue with the court ruling. Our policy is clear now, we have revised the policy and so it is clear now that in terms of how officers hair must look and while yes there may have been some ambiguity when it comes to that of the female officers the one that deals with the male officers is extremely clear as to what is permissible. And so once it is that you enter the department knowing that you’re supposed to maintain a low haircut we don’t expect that later on you’ll accept coming in knowing the situation and then later on you’ll come and want to change it to suit you. I don’t think that the court is going to countenance that.”
The five women are Aleea Wade, Shantel Berry, Vanessa Kerr, Crystal Morales, Maria Grinage, and Sergeant Christine Avila. Minister of Home Affairs Kareem Musa has taken to social media to applaud the judgement, saying, quote, “The essence of the case challenged the constitutionality of archaic regulations imposed on the women police officers that choose to wear dread locks or other natural hairstyles. I’ve been a proponent before – as I am today – and am hugely ecstatic for this proclamation. Surely, this is a good day. In a time when we, as a Department, are battling ethical issues with officers, we should be focusing on what the job before us actually needs to get done. It is time that “an officer is judged by the content of his character and not the style of her hair”. End of quote.