It has been some months now since our newsroom has gotten an update from the Ombudsman, Lionel Arzu but the last time we spoke with him, he had told us that there were some difficulties in dealing with complaints against the police. Today, however, Arzu spoke of improved relations with the Belize Police Department.
“The last time we spoke we had issues with the police, as a whole, as a department. Today I must be fair with the police because we have been having monthly meetings with the Professional Standards Bureau from the police and the idea of the monthly meetings is to ensure that whatever correspondence and complaints are sent to them they are able to give us updates. Our thing beside from giving us updates we want written correspondence saying what they have done and their closing of the case. If we at the officer are the satisfied with their response then we close it, if we are not satisfied then we continue.”
According to Arzu the complaints have lessened and he believes that it is because of certain systems put in place.
“Up to mid-year, there is a midyear report that goes to the subcommittee in the House. We were around 112 complaints and out of those half were about the Police Department. Since then we have been going into a downward trend. From what you might be aware of is that the police stations are rigged with cameras and thus policemen are not too inclined to want to beat up on prisoners on a whole and so that itself is a deterrent for police officers having abuse or alleged abuse prisoners but on a whole the complaints seem to be going on a downward trend and if what I have is true we should have lesser complaints be the end of the year.”
Love News asked Arzu if he feels that the complaints have indeed lessened because of the systems in place or if it is merely because the public is not confident that their problems would be addressed.
“I wouldn’t want to think that my office is not doing what they need to do as a staff in relation to complaints. It is more that if you come to my office there is some redress as it relates to your complaint. The problem that we may have is just the process because we work with a system and when you work with a system you have to write the Commissioner of Police and then he has to direct his head of the Professional Standards Branch which would be ACP Leal and he has to direct his people to go and investigate. So it’s a process and things don’t come as fast as people who complain to the office may want and we assure people that once we get something from the police and are satisfied we close the case, if we are not satisfied we keep going.”
As at midyear 2015 there have been an estimated one hundred and twenty cases reported to the Ombudsman and of that amount about fifty percent has been addressed and settled.