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Police not welcomed by Mayflower Street residents

This afternoon, the commander of Southside Belize City, Howell Gillett, Deputy Commissioner of Police Chester Williams and a number of other police officers visited the Mayflower Street residents as part of the Department’s weekly Meet and Greet sessions. Their visit, however, was met with rejection. Only three days after burying Kendis Flowers and their subsequent encounter with the Gang Suppression Unit that followed the funeral, the residents remain bitter and resentful. The officers, led by DCP Williams, attempted to speak with the residents in one of the yards, but were almost immediately shut down and were forced to listen as some residents expressed their rage at the way Flowers’ murder was being handled by the Department. Others bitterly recalled their encounter with the GSU on Sunday. And it was mainly the women, a select few, who were vocal. The men and young men remained silent for the most part, with at least one of them approaching officers to have a brief chat. As officers moved to another house in the area, their encounter with the residents was not as tense, but the overall situation remains volatile. Despite this, Commander of the Eastern Division South, Senior Superintendent Howell Gillett viewed it as a success.

Sr.Supt. Howell Gillet, Commander, Eastern Division South: “Yes well the healing process takes a while and it’s obvious by the comments being thrown around and we don’t want to aggravate it any further we want to get the people on our side. Just hearing from the people of the concerns that they have whether it be under stress or whether they are calm that is a different thing but we are hearing the things that are affecting them and we will go back and regroup and see how we can best solve the issues affecting them in this area. In my view the met and greet session albeit there were some loud voices I believe it was successful because the police is in great numbers, we have the support of the media to bring out what was and the negativity will always be there. There are many people who see the glass half empty but we look at it as being half full so I’m sure that with time the relationship between the police and this community will be up.”

As we mentioned before, a few of the residents spoke openly of their rejection of the police, but they clarified that their grievance is particularly geared towards the Gang Suppression Unit. While none of the residents would speak with the media, Commander Gillett says the Department may be able to address that situation.

Sr.Supt.Howell Gillett, Commander, Eastern Division South: “Well where can minimize the presence of the GSU especially in this area we will try our very best but the public has to remember that the GSU is specialized in certain areas and if we need to enlist their support its something that we will have to do but in the very near future or interim if we don’t have to use them in this community for any meaningful reason then we will just go ahead and do so.”

Meanwhile, some of the residents rejected DCP Chester Williams, who was once a welcomed figure among the residents. Following the encounter with the GSU, it appears that some have lost their confidence and love for the Operations Commander. For his part, however, he said he remains committed to working with the communities and officers.

ACP Chester Williams, Commander of Operation: “A part of my responsibility as commander of operations is to ensure that wherever we go out and discharge any functions or engage in any operations that we try our best to do it as professionally as we can and that is something that I will ensure is done that we do continuous training with our specialized units.”

According to Commander Gillett, the department will continue to work to mend the relationship with residents in the area through a number of diverse initiatives.