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Bad Cop tarnish the image of the Police Department

In 2017, the Belize Police Department faced numerous instances of embarrassment brought about by personnel from within the force. These ranged from accusations of police brutality, bribery, contraband, drunken officers caught on film to rape. In more serious cases, officers are being investigated for use of deadly force. Many of these cases have landed on the desk of the Professional Standards Branch Commander, ACP Chester Williams and today he gave the media updates on at least seven cases. One of the most serious allegations was made by two women in November who reported that they were raped while in police custody at the Independence Village Police Station. As the media pressed the department for comment, police remained mum for several weeks. ACP Williams said today that he personally led the investigation adding that the case is a complex one which he could not speak much of. Here is what he did say about it.

ACP Chester Williams, Commander, Professional Standards Branch

“In that investigation, the two females concerned gave their account of what took place. After having given the account I had the privilege of viewing the surveillance camera in the police station and having viewed the surveillance camera in the police station I observed a number of inconsistencies in their account of what transpired and based on that I informed the commissioner that there would be a need to conduct further investigation to be able to ascertain if, in fact, the incident occurred. The commissioner agreed and so the investigation continued. The file was compiled and sent to the Director of Public Prosecution for her directives and she had returned the file to me with certain directives and that was complied with and the file went back to her yesterday. We have new developments in the matter, I am not going to share what those are but we have critical new developments where that matter is concerned and so we will now await what her directives will be having received the new information we now have where that matter is concerned.”

Another case that pushed a community to protest was the case where Baires Hernandez was shot by police and died. It happened on December third in the Arizona Area of Teakettle Village. A police mobile entered the village around noon that day just as villagers gathered for their weekly football games at the community football field. Two officers reportedly set chase after Hernandez and shot him to the knee. He died shortly after. Police said they were seeking someone for robbery and that officers fire only one shot. Villagers had a different story to tell saying the police fired three shots at Hernandez. Upset at what they deemed was a police cover-up, they staged a protest at the entrance of the community by setting tires on fire. Three persons were subsequently charged with that offense. The case was taken up by the professional standards Branch and today ACP Williams gave an update on their investigation.

ACP Chester Williams, Commander, Professional Standards Branch:

“Because of the nature of the incident itself and how it occurred it is not a straightforward open and close investigation and so I believe it is best for us to leave it to the learned Director of Public Prosecution to decide basically how she will deal with the matter and like you said, I don’t know which law school you went to, but you touched the issue of causation and that is a legal principle that I’m sure she will be looking at when she addresses the issue so as soon as any directive is given from her in respect to that matter then we will move forward with that investigation.”

Another case is one where two police corporals in Punta Gorda town are being accused of police brutality. They are accused of beating sixteen-year-old Victor Cus causing him to lose three teeth. His injuries were classified as grievous harm. In this case, ACP Williams says the officers were found to have no valid reason for such use of force upon the teenager and have been charged accordingly.

ACP Chester Williams, Commander, Professional Standards Branch

“Mr.Roberto Cus who is the father of Victor Cus reported to us that on December 13th of this year his son was met and beaten by two police officers, two of whom are of the rank of corporal. During the beat, down his son sustained injuries and lost three teeth and his cellphone was also damaged in the process. In respect of that matter I have given instructions to the officer commanding Punta Gorda Police Station to lay criminal charges against the police officers concerned for grievous harm and damage to property so they should be charged before the weekends and will be arraigned in court on criminal charges and them will also be charged disciplinarily in respect of their disciplinary infraction where that matter is concerned.”

Cus’ father claims that his son was not guilty of any offense and the teenager was never in fact charged. So, was the attack personal?

ACP Williams said only that there is overwhelming evidence against the officers that their actions were wrong and unjustified.  A similar case is that of 20-year-old Randy Chambers who was beaten by police on the night of December fourth. Chambers was beaten by officers from the Special Assignment Team after he had already surrendered. It was all caught on camera. ACP Williams says the officers have been charged, but not criminally.

ACP Chester Williams, Commander, Professional Standards Branch

“I gave instructions to my office here in Belize City to proceed with charges against those officers concerned and they were disciplinarily charged yesterday and arraigned this morning and plead not guilty to the charges against them.”

Reporter: But why no criminal charges?

ACP Chester Williams, Commander, Professional Standards Branch:

“Mr.Chambers requested that the matter is dealt with internally.”