One of the recent complaints coming out of the National Assembly was the lack of attention being given to the recommendations of the Ombudsman on several matters. Senator Mark Lizarraga raised the matter of the Ombudsman report that was tabled in the last sitting of the Senate where the recommendations of additional training and equipment for the police were among several recommendations made in improving the performance of the department whilst keeping them in line with their standing orders. Love News spoke with Ombudsman Lionel Arzu on what the response has been like from the Government as it relates to his report.
“Every year we issue our annual reports from the office of the ombudsman however the recommendation as stated by ourselves continues to be an issue for us at the office. Recently myself and two other staff members met with the new attorney general and we expressed to her some of the same issues that we have that these recommendations are there and they haven’t been looked at in a serious manner. We asked her for her good office to help bring those issues to the forefront while she attends cabinet we don’t attend cabinet so my hope is that she will from going forward take these complaints to the cabinet and see how best she can look at them. My advice would be to look at what can be taken care of immediately, what can be taken care of in the median term and what can be taken care of in the long term and so going forward we are hoping for better results.”
As it relates to the complaints being received by the Ombudsman’s office, Arzu told Love News that the majority of them are on the Belize Police Department.
“The police department as one department if my memory serves me right we have about 91 complaints against the police. We haven’t been getting good results as to the resolution of these complaints however as you may know I recently signed an MOU with the commissioner of police and my point here is that it’s a gentleman’s agreement but we hope that the police holds their end we will hold our end and then together we can work on resolving these complaints. They were mainly police brutality while they are performing their duties and some of it has to do with some unit of the department barging into people’s home without a search warrant and the like.”
With the dozens of complaints being channelled to the Ombudsman office, it does beg the question as to why the Professional Standards Branch of the Belize Police Department is being circumvented. Arzu says it may have to do with intimidation or the scepticism of a just investigation.
“There has been this perception where people go to PSB you don’t meet PSB without going through the people in the front desk of that office and so at times people allege that they go there but they tell them that they can’t see the people or that they are not there and so the perception is that they will go there and not get anything sorted out. What we have done is have them come to our office but if they have the issue of not wanting to go there I have staff members accompany them to the PSB in Belize City, get them to the office have their complaint sorted out and then we take it from there.”
Senator Lizarraga had brought up the issue of the report as a reference and in relation to where the monies are being prioritized in the national budget.