Last night we broke the story that PC Manuel Caliz and Corporal Elmer Nah were found not guilty by the police tribunal. The two cops faced disciplinary charges and were accused of “Failure to Obey Lawful Order”. Both officers are among a group of men who still stand accused of facilitating the landing of a drug plane in November 2021 on the Southern Highway in Bladen Village, Toledo District. Police interception yielded twenty-five bales of cocaine and six high-powered rifles and ammunition. Two days after the drug plane landing, 139 rounds of .223 police-issued ammunition were found in Nah’s vehicle as he drove to a checkpoint in Independence Village. Several other persons were detained during that particular weekend and eleven in total were criminally charged. Several officers face internal actions including Nah and Caliz. But Corporal Richard Arnold, who was called as a witness to the tribunal by Nah’s attorney Leeroy Banner took responsibility for the ammunition. Corporal Arnold told the police tribunal that he signed for the ammunition and placed it in a vehicle. The problem is, that the vehicle in which the rounds of ammunition were found was not the vehicle that Corporal Arnold indicated. It’s a “fishy” statement that has Police Commissioner Chester Williams disappointed. Today, the Commissioner told the media that he is going to re-check the case file.
Chester Williams, Commissioner, Belize Police Department: “The adjudicator who presided over the matter had found both gentlemen not guilty in respect to the ammunitions that were found inside the vehicle that they were in at the particular time. I was further briefed that the acquittal came as a result of the testimony of another officer who testified to the tribunal that he had signed for those ammunition and had left them inside the vehicle. But again, having looked at the circumstances, is that the officer who testified to the effect that he had left the ammunition inside the vehicle, the vehicle in question that he had supposedly left the ammunition is not the same vehicle that the two gentlemen were found in and at the time had the ammunition in it. So, I still cannot understand on what basis did the adjudicator decide that these two gentlemen were not guilty. Nonetheless, I have sent for the file, the notes of evidence, and I will review the notes of evidence or have my legal team review the evidence to see whether or not the adjudicator erred in his decision in acquitting the two gentlemen.”
Hipolito Novelo, Love FM News: The officer that is claiming to have signed for the bullets, the ammunition, do you believe that he willingly misinformed the tribunal?
Chester Williams, Commissioner, Belize Police Department: “Well, the legal office has been tasked along with the Professional Standards Branch to look at the statement he gave at the time when the incident occurred and we’re going to see if that is consistent with what he gave in the tribunal. If it is that the statement he gave immediately in the aftermath of the incident is different than what he gave in the tribunal then certainly we will have to look at the whole issue of perjury and different charges that can come along, like for example, after *unclear* order and discipline. So, We’ll see how that works out. I don’t want to put the cart ahead of the horse at this time. I still need to look at the notes of evidence. I still need to look at the file to see if there is consistency in what he had said immediately after and what he said in the tribunal.”
Hipolito Novelo, Love FM News: You do agree that there is something fishy about this statement?
Chester Williams, Commissioner, Belize Police Department: “Well certainly I am still trying to understand how is it that he could have said that to the tribunal. But like I said, I can only get that clarification if I were to see the file to see what he had said then compared to what he had said to the tribunal.”
And according to Police Commissioner, Chester Williams, adjudicators have been informed that the disciplinary tribunal is not the same as a court of law and as such the principle of natural justice should be allowed to take its course.
Chester Williams, Commissioner, Belize Police Department: “We have been saying to our adjudicators over and over that our disciplinary tribunal is not a court of law per se. It is a process of which we allow the principle of natural justice to take its course. It’s a fact finding tribunal and the strict rule of evidence is not applicable and likewise, it is not like in a court of law where a person must be found guilty based on the principle of beyond all reasonable doubt, meaning that the standard of proof is not beyond all reasonable doubt. In our tribunal we have the civil standard which is on a balance of probability. But oftentimes we are seeing that our adjudicators are applying criminal standards as opposed to the civil standard and they are acquitting officers on that basis and so what we will do, as I said, we will review the notes of evidence and if it is we find that the adjudicator had erred then that does give the Commissioner the power to either maintain, uphold the current decision, reduce, or to up it. So we’ll wait until the process is over and then we’ll make a final determination. But let me say that Corporal Nah and PC Caliz remain on interdiction because the criminal part of that matter is still before the court. Even the officer who went to the tribunal and testified yesterday, or the day that he testified, that he signed for these ammunitions and left them inside a vehicle, then certainly he has admitted to some neglect on his part to have not returned those ammunition and left them inside a vehicle. So all of that we have to look at and see how we can proceed with this matter otherwise.”