Belize Police Department Looks to Replace Vans
The Belize Police Department is looking to decommission some of the police vans, which at one point have become death traps on wheels. After the tragic incident with Derrick Uh, a Corozal resident who perished inside one of these vehicles after police officers forgot that they had him locked inside, the public began raising concerns about the safety of these vans. Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, says that while the van itself was not the cause of Uh’s death but the sheer negligence on the part of the officers, he and Police Minister, Kareem Musa, are looking for an alternative mode of transporting detainees.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “Those vans are not unique to Belize. Even in the US and other first world countries it is those types of transport that they use to ferry prisoners. But we do understand the concerns 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. And with that said myself, the Minister and the CEO 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 see if they will be able to purchase for us some new vans that we can customize. I can say that we have through the Ministry of Finance purchased one such van for prosecution branch here in Belize City to transport prisoners from Belize City to Hattieville Prison.”
However, ComPol Williams says this van did not come cheap and needs to be customized to fit the standards needed to safely transport prisoners, totalling about eighteen thousand dollars. The Police Department is working to acquire a van for the north, west, and south of the country. In the interim, the original vans will still be used, but they have developed a system to minimize human error.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “In the meantime we implore upon our officers to make sure that they follow all the protocols where the vans are concerned to ensure that there is no repetition of Mr.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 was where things went wrong. And once it is used in that manner there is no way the police will arrive at prison and forget that he has prisoners in the van, there’s no way he’s going to get back to court with prisoners and forget he had prisoners in the van so we don’t anticipate that human error to occur in those circumstances. But again we’re going to replace them as soon as we possibly can and we just ask a bit of patience be given to us in that respect.”