Sexual Crimes in the Belize Coast Guard
The recent cases against police officers, particularly, involving sexual crimes, have placed a negative light upon the Belize Police Department. Sadly, the reports of unwanted sexual advances and rape are nothing new within law enforcement agencies, including the Belize Defence Force. As it relates to the Belize Coast Guard, the Commandant, Rear Admiral Elton Bennett told Love News that such reported cases are not as common with his organization.
RADM Elton Bennett, Belize Coast Guard Commandant: “If it was a culture within the organization I’m sure that information would be out there therefore we would have to conclude that sexual misconduct in the Belize Coast Guard is either minimal or none. Since my time as the commandant I’ve had to review two cases of sexual harassment and that’s a period of 3 ½ years two cases which I think is really really good so I would like to say that the men and women of the Belize Coast Guard are pretty much well behaved that does not say that they aren’t any cases of sexual harassment that are not reported. So that’s an angle that we are looking at.”
Reporter: But what’s your message to your team to avoid that?
RADM Elton Bennett, Belize Coast Guard Commandant: “Oh it’s a zero tolerance. If you are found guilty the penalty would be dismissal and it’s a very difficult thing for any military to be free of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct because of the nature of our administration and the way we conduct operations where you forward deploy men and women would be in a very confined space and small teams would be out there so the likelihood of it occurring is very high unless you can constantly put into the minds of your people that this is a zero tolerance and that if you are guilty of such an act then you would be dismissed and there is no place for it in the Coast Guard then you are able to at least minimize the chances of occurrence.”
Rear Admiral Bennett further noted that only a degree of naivety would allow someone to believe that there are not unreported cases.
RADM Elton Bennett, Belize Coast Guard Commandant: “As the commander I do believe that there must be cases, I mean two cases over 3 ½ year period is very unlikely so there must be occasions where there are sexual misconduct that are not reported. A while ago the Ministry of National Defense and Border Security launched a joint sexual violence protocol to deal with sexual misconduct in the services and one of those topics that we discussed is exactly that those cases that are not reported and why are they not being reported? Is it that they’ve lost confidence in the system or they are too ashamed of coming forward? So there are measures that are being put in place to have alternative report lines so that we can ensure that we can address those cases that are not being formally reported.”
As for the Belize Defence Force, there is at least one case of sexual misconduct which we have been unable to get a comment on.