One, two, three – that is how many senior police officers have been placed on administrative leave. For now, it is a slap on the wrist considering the severity of what transpired at the Port on Wednesday morning. According to the Police Commissioner Chester Williams, the administrative leave is for five days only. Once the five days are up further actions would be dependent on the Security Services Commission.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “Certain senior level officers in Eastern Division had to go on administrative leave effectively immediately and so as the CEO had mentioned Mr.Dawson who was the Eastern Division Commander was placed on administrative leave, Mr.Arzu who is Region One Commander is on administrative leave and Mr.Lorenzo who is the Commander of GSU is also on administrative leave. Now as you have heard Mrs.Magdaleno said that the directive was given to Mr.Dawson and he failed to transmit the directive downwards and that could be seen as what led to the chaos because had he trickled the directive down then whatever happened would not have occurred but Mr.Arzu also have a responsibility. You cannot deploy a riot team without consulting the Commissioner of Police and so he failed in that respect and he also failed in the respect that he was out there when this entire fiasco was taking place and he did nothing to intervene to stop it. Mr.Lorenzo on the other hand was acting on instructions from Mr.Arzu but again Mr.Lorenzo as much as the investigation showed that he did some due diligence in trying to find out from Mr.Arzu where the directive came from and if the persons had been spoken to before and asked to leave and he was given assurance where that is concerned and so he acted on the instructions given to him by Mr.Arzu. Now for us while yes you act on instructions you must ensure that whatever instructions you act on are lawful.”
Who gave the orders? That was the question on everyone’s mind especially when both the Police Commissoner and the National Security Minister indicated that they were clear in ordering that the Port protestors be left alone. Deputy Commisisoner of Police, Deziree Magdaleno took the media through the preliminary findings of the internal investigation.
Dezerie Magdaleno, Deputy Commissioner of Police: “During the course of the investigation it revealed that sometime around midday or a little after midday on Wednesday Commissioner of Police gave directive to Eastern Division Regional Commander Assistant Commissioner Alden Dawson and that directive was clear and specific to say that the persons gathered on the compound protesting must be allowed to remain on the compound as long as they remain peaceful. That directive as is expected, as is protocol needed or must be complied with however the investigation revealed that Mr.Dawson failed to transmit that directive to the ground commander at the Port of Belize. That ground commander was Senior Superintendent Daniel Arzu so he had no idea of that directive given by the Commissioner to Mr.Dawson. Just prior to that directive being given by the Commissioner assistance was required by the GSU for support to relieve some of the uniformed officers that were deployed out there for them to have their refreshment break but they were deployed with the specific instructions that they were not to be deployed without any kind of riot gear- that was done. Subsequent to that the commander for GSU arrived at the compound to do an assessment of the situation bearing in mind his personnel are deployed out there on the request for assistance and so he did his assessment on the grounds, he communicated with the ground commander like I said who was Senior Superintendent Daniel Arzu. The directive given to the GSU Commander Mr.Lorenzo is that the crowd gathered there needed to be removed and so Mr.Lorenzo inquired whether the persons gathered were spoken to and that was communicated that yes they have been spoken to and so Mr.Arzu once more went and spoke to the persons gathered and shortly after doing so he communicated with Mr.Lorenzo and he gave the order to have the persons gathered be removed and that is when the GSU was engaged and what occured occured.”
Police Commissioner says today’s press conference was called to assure the public that the matter is being investigated and that just and swift action will be taken. Commanding Officer for the Professional Standards Bureau, Senior Superintendent Dwayne Sutherland, says in the process of the investigation interviews were carried out and medical examinations have been done.
Dwayne Sutherland, Commanding Officer, Professional Standards Branch: “So far seven persons came forward to the Professional Standards Branch and made complaints. They reported that they received varying injuries to the body. Those persons are Trevor Jones, Leon Jones, Galvin Ozman, Kenroy Gillett, Bruce Diaz, Elswin Willoughby and Kevin Sutherland, all seven persons were issued with medico forms. From the seven, two returned with those medico forms those persons are Mr.Willoughby and Mr.Gillett, doctor classified their injuries as harm. The two individuals who returned their medico forms also gave statements to us the remaining five have not returned the medico forms and we are still waiting on them to come and give a formal complaint. The investigation reveals likewise that the force being utilized to disperse these protesters on the day in question was one that was unnecessary, one that could have been avoided and one that is unjustified. During the investigation it also implicates four lower ranking officers who were acting as a part of the dispersing team, those officers were acting on the instructions given by the dispersing team commander.”
Police Commissioner Williams noted that an official update will be given in about five days when the administrative leave for the senior officers expire.