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Leal brothers press charges against police officers after former Deputy Commissioner intervenes

The current Deputy Commissioner of Police Chester Williams will be installed as the new Commissioner of Police on Wednesday, replacing outgoing commissioner Allen Whylie. Today, while still in his capacity as deputy, we spoke with Williams on several important stories prior to his promotion. DCP Williams called on the media to provide information on a new turn in events as it pertains to the investigation of the San Pedro beat down of 20-year-old Jamir Leal and his brothers by two police officers on the island on New Year’s night. The brothers had initially refused to press charges against PCs Tyrell Rowley and Samir Medina. But on the weight of the video footage alone, DCP Williams instructed investigators to hold them on disciplinary charges. On Monday, they appeared in court where PC Rowley was arraigned for 2 counts of prejudice to good order and discipline and PC Medina for 1 count prejudice to good order and discipline. Both pleaded not guilty and their case was adjourned to January 21. Today however, the Leal brothers filed their statements and the officers will now face criminal charges. Their position has changed after the Deputy Commissioner became personally involved in the investigation. He reached out to Leal’s mother and invited the family to meet with him and cooperate with the investigation. She heeded the invitation and went to the Capital with her three sons where Love News’ Dalila Ical spoke to them on the way forward.

Jamir Leal Belize San Pedro
Jamir Leal speaks to reporters in front of a police station.

Jamir Leal, Complainant:  First I was worried about our safety knowing that they would still be out there and they would get one week’s suspension, I was worrying about our safety and didn’t want anything to happen to us. But Mr.Williams explained everything to us and that they would not do anything to us so we decided to press charges against the officers who injured me and we can’t leave it like that so we decided to cooperate with the investigation.”

Deputy Commissioner of Police Chester Williams says it was the first time he became involved in this investigation and he did so to encourage the family’s trust in the department.

Chester Williams, Deputy Commissioner of Police: “I spoke with the three gentlemen concerned and assured them that they need not fear any retribution from the police should they decide to cooperate with us in this investigation. They were more than willing to cooperate, they have all given their full detailed statement to the police and now I am pleased to say that we have sufficient evidence now and we now have the two complainants and we will now be proceeding criminally against the two mentioned police officers.”

Statements from the Leal Brothers will be sent to the Crimes Investigations Branch in Belize City. The professional standards branch will continue investigating the internal aspect of the case. DCP Williams said the officers will more than likely be charged with wounding and harm and should be arraigned by Friday.

Chester Williams Belize Police
Deputy Commissioner of Police Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Deputy Commissioner of Police: “If they are convicted criminally the law does provide that the Commissioner of Police can dismiss you once you have been convicted of a criminal offense. The nature of the conduct that they are charged with internally that is an act to the prejudice of good order and discipline is an egregious breach of discipline and so if convicted in the tribunal that too can warrant a dismissal these are very serious internal charges. Directives have been given to expedite the trial and to ensure that it is done within the scope of our internal disciplinary procedures and we must be careful in the sense that we cannot get too emotional and move too fast and not comply with the rules and regulations because if we do that and they are convicted and we do not follow the proper procedures then we go right back to square one the appeal and they end up right back in the police department. So while yes the process might take a little while we will ensure that the proper procedures are followed, that if they are convicted that the conviction will be upheld even if they should appeal to the Belize Advisory Council.”

Williams adds that taking the case to where it is now was imperative.

Reporter: Why push forward or push harder for this particular case?

Chester Williams, Deputy Commissioner of Police: well I think the video speaks for itself. When I looked at the video personally I got cold seed. It is disgusting and we cannot countenance behavior like that. I think that as an organization we should do our utmost best to ensure that the right thing is done and so I decided to take that additional effort and reach out to the victims.

And while there have been many cases that have fallen through at court for lack of evidence, missing evidence or nonpreparation by prosecutors, DCP Williams expressed trust in the officers investigating this case as does Leal.

Reporter: Do you have absolute confidence in the department at this moment and Mr.Williams who reached out to you?

Jamir Leal, Complainant: Yes I do.”

The family will no longer pursue legal action on their own against the officers or the police department.  And as the investigation moves forward, Deputy Commissioner Williams made a commitment to the public that, in cases where civilians file complaints against officers, the department will ensure their safety.

Chester Williams, Deputy Commissioner of Police: I want to assure the public that whenever we have police officers who will behave in a such a way it does not serve us any well to cover those misconducts, it does us as an organization more harm than good and so we as we move forward will be very swift to address any police misconduct and I also want to assure the three gentlemen and any other person who may have been aggrieved by police officers that once it is that you decide to work with us to address the misconduct of our officers that we will do our best to ensure that no police officer targets you as a result of your cooperation.”