Passing Out Ceremony Welcomes 145 New Police Officers to Belize Department
The Belize Police Department is hopeful that its policing efforts will improve with additional boots on the ground. Today, a passing out ceremony was held at the Police Training Academy for the graduates of Squad 96. The 145 new police officers were officially sworn in after completing a seven-month police course. The men and women in uniform will be stationed across the country and are among the largest graduating class. Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, says this intake of officers received rigorous training in firearm practices when compared to previous cohorts.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “It is indeed good to see that we were able to graduate 145 new police officers today and those officers are now a part of the rank of the Belize Police Department and we anticipate that with the injection of this new squad into our ranks that we’ll be able to cover more grounds in terms of providing citizen security to our people. They have been distributed across the country with the northern districts getting the majority of them followed by the west, the south and the eastern region getting the least which is not normally the case. But again, we have seen that there is a call or a cry for police officers in different parts of the country. We have expanded in certain areas and this squad, as much as it will not give us the amount of officers we need to carry out our expansion, it gives us that start that we need and we’re hoping that with the next squad, Squad 97, we’ll be able to carry out our expansion in its entirety. In the past we used to do one day of firearms training. With Squad 95 and 96 we have upped that where they do one week of classroom training with firearms in terms of the theoretical aspect of firearms, knowing the components and so forth and then they have one week on the range. In the past you fire 10 rounds on the range and that was it. This time you fire several rounds and from different types of weapons. So it gives you the police officer the ability to know how to handle the different types of weapons that police would normally use on a daily basis.”
Minister of Home Affairs, Kareem Musa, says the officers will greatly impact the department’s crime fighting efforts and will aid in improving the public’s trust in the police.
Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries: “Back in 2016 the strength of the police department stood at 2,600 police officers. Over the years that number has dwindled and with the passing out of Squad 96 today, our numbers will grow to 2,200 police officers. And hereafter we will be having another squad coming in, Squad 97, in the coming months. And so that should take us closer to the 2,500 mark which I believe is a strong enough force for us to have in Belize. Both squads, it is my hope and my expectation, will be leaders within their precincts, whichever precinct they are posted to. We have revised the curriculum, we have revised the criteria for you to become a police officer and so far we have not had any complaints from Squad 95 and we are looking forward to likewise exemplary performance from this particular squad. As you saw we even issued an award for human rights success in their human rights courses that they took and so there’s a new revised curriculum that we’ve been working with over the last two or three years with Dr. Priscilla Brown as the Dean of the Academy and it is excellent performance so far and we look forward to greater things from both squad 95 and 96.”
Reporter: In your speech you spoke about the fact that the first job of these officers won’t be to make an arrest but to win over the hearts of the Belizean people. How important was that message given that you know the image at this point is very fractured and the trust that Belizean people have is limited in the police?
Kareem Musa, Minister of Home Affairs and New Growth Industries: “It’s a very important message Vejea and it’s one that I have echoed many times in addressing this particular squad because it’s not just about respecting human rights, it’s about restoring the confidence and trust that the Belizean people have in the police department. That is something, that is a pillar that we have been working on since we came into office in 2020 and that is something that we continue to drive home.”