A video of an ambulance being pulled over at a checkpoint circulated over the weekend rendering anger at the Belize Police Department. The video shows the ambulance driver being asked to come out of the vehicle and to open the back door for inspection. In the background, a woman’s voice was heard pleading for help as her sick husband was being transported to the hospital. It sparked outrage at the police and empathy for the woman who clearly wanted to get medical attention for her husband. The Commissioner of Police Chester Williams addressed the matter over the weekend via social media explaining what led to the incident. A few hours later an official release from the department was issued explaining that they had received intel of drugs being transported in an ambulance. Commissioner Williams spoke on the matter in this morning’s press brief in Belmopan.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “Yesterday was a very peculiar circumstances where the police had received information that the driver of the ambulance was being held at gunpoint and being forced to transport guns and drugs from Stann Creek to Belize City and with that information the checkpoint on the Hummingbird Highway just outside of Belmopan was alerted and a few minutes later an ambulance bearing Stann Creek license plates approached the checkpoint. The police stopped the ambulance and upon attempting to question the driver to ensure that he was okay and to check the ambulance the driver sped off almost hitting the officers who were at the checkpoint. We immediately contacted Southern Regional Hospital and inquired from them if in fact an ambulance had departed that hospital and what would have been the destination of the ambulance. Southern Region’s response was that the ambulance did not go anywhere and there was no run from that hospital with an ambulance so that coupled with the behavior of the driver really and truly gave more credence to the information received because why would the ambulance driver just speed off when being questioned by the police and so the other checkpoint on the George Price Highway outside of Belmopan was alerted and they were prepared for the ambulance and when the ambulance arrived there again the officers attempted to stop the ambulance. The ambulance drove right through the police the police officers had to dash off the road to avoid being hit by the ambulance. Now that is not the normal behavior of an ambulance driver. We have been working with BERT which is another private institution and our relationship with BERT is so excellent that we have never had any instance or any situation of such as a matter of fact the BERT ambulances when they reach checkpoint they normally slow down and would hail to the police or whatever the case may be. So again with the driver just bolting through the checkpoint, a second checkpoint, it really and truly made the information more believable because we do not expect that the driver of an ambulance is going to behave in such a way.”
Police Commissioner went on to speak on the events that transpired once the ambulance arrived at the Hattieville checkpoint.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “Instructions was given to the Hattieville checkpoint to boost up their man power and to be fully prepared to ensure that the ambulance is brought to a stop because we now believe that this driver is being held hostage in this van, he is being forced to go certain way and we now see saving his life as a matter of urgency and so when the ambulance arrived at the Hattieville checkpoint the officers placed the police vehicle across the road to prevent it from doing what it did at the two previous checkpoints and so that brought the ambulance to a stop. The officers as you can see in the video were very professional. I don’t think one would expect that the officers would have approached the ambulance with their guns in holster, their hands on their side and just walked down “We got information that this man has been held at gunpoint by gunmen inside the ambulance.” So the officers did have their guns drawn and were very cautious and professional in approaching the van and upon checking and seeing that there was a patient in the ambulance the officers immediately let go the ambulance to go about it’s business. The ambulance didn’t even take thirty seconds at the checkpoint it was quickly released and went on its way.”
According to Police Commissoner Williams the public can be unfair at times in their judgments and comments particularly aimed at the Belize Police Department. He added that had the intel proven true and the police did not act on it, the public would have also found a reason to be enraged at the police.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “To see the reaction of some people towards the police and what the police did is rather appalling. I don’t know what people expect of us at times because I think that as right thinking people we ought to look at both sides of a situation and objectively look at it. Let’s say the information was true and this ambulance would have passed through three checkpoints and the police did nothing and the driver would have later on found dead somewhere in the ambulance what would have been the talking point ? The ambulance passed three checkpoints and the police did nothing and now the man is dead and we would have been blamed for his murder. We did what we could have done in the circumstances with the information we had and I believe that the police did nothing wrong and I immediately reported the matter to the CEO in the Ministry of Health and explained to him what had transpired and he said “Commissioner I agree with you.” He said ambulance drivers need to understand that they don’t have a license to just bust through checkpoints and drive a hundred miles per hour, it just a courtesy that the police extend to them and with that the Ministry of Health said that they would try to streamline how these private ambulance operate to bring it in line with how the Ministry of Health ambulances operate.”
The press release from the Belize Police Department closed off by stating, quote, “We regret the situation reached the level it did, but we believed all this could have been avoided had the driver stopped and explain the situation to officers at one of the prior checkpoints. We will continue working with the Ministry of Health to ensure the safe and prompt transportation of their patients.” End of quote.