On Thursday afternoon, following a meeting between Police High Command and Prime Minister Dean Barrow, as well as Acting Minister of National Security Anthony “Boots” Martinez, there was a briefing held at the Racoon Street Police Station.
Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie outlined the Department’s response, which features added reinforcement for the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) and Quick Response “Strikeforce” Team to be on the ground and in the faces of the criminal element.
“My directive to them is that each and every individual must be arrested and charged for whatever infractions of the law that they commit. I know from time to time that we’ve taken these persons into custody. Infractions may have indeed occurred, and some officers may have overlooked those kind of infractions. We are saying there’s a zero tolerance in regards to any breach of the laws, and in particular in terms of these people who have been creating this mayhem in the streets of Belize City.”
For the GSU, which has been on the wrong side of multiple complaints of brutality by its 35-member unit, it is a ringing endorsement. But as the police get tough, the criminal elements get rough. So we asked the Commissioner about strengthening intelligence capability in the Department through the section tasked with that purpose, Special Branch. Here was his response.
Commissioner Allen Whylie
“Indeed, intelligence is one of the key factors impinging on the level of our operational success. The Special Branch numbers are not the greatest. I know that the head has been trying to do as much as he’s been able to do. That’s why our discussion was to be focusing as to areas where we believe he’ll be able to free up assets to assist Eastern Division.
Indeed, part of what I am also looking at, in the near future, is a few more officers for the Special Branch. Special Branch, as you know, is a specialized area. It will take a time for the new persons to get up to speed, because training is key.
Apart from Special Branch, the community engagement for passing on information through the hot lines, as well as through individual officers, is very key to our success. We support Special Branch. Special Branch will be getting the additional few members also.”
Of the coming squad intake of officers to graduate in a few weeks, as many as 50% will be committed to Belize City and these two units in particular.
For his part, Prime Minister Dean Barrow promised as much financial and other resources as needed. He said while these things cost, it is much less than the cost of lives lost.