Posted: Monday, August 18, 2014. 11:43 pm CST.
Monday, August 18, 2014. AARON HUMES Reporting: Toward the end of last week, BDF Commander Brigadier General David Jones; Deputy Officer Commanding Eastern Division Senior Superintendent Edward Broaster and Minister of National Security John Saldivar sang the praises of a reform camp organized by the BDF at its base in Camp Belizario in the Cayo District.
Approximately 60 of what Minister Saldivar called “the worst of the worst”, youths heavily involved in criminal activity in Belize City at the behest of gang members, were volunteered for tough disciplinary training from the Force.
But according to one youth who spoke out today, members of the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) who were also at the camp took that discipline too far after a fight broke out between members of rival gangs.
He says they were all rounded up and severely beaten and stomped on by officers, leaving bruises.
The youth specifically says he was told by officers in charge that all would suffer for the actions of the fighting youths, that they would “see their blood.”
It was enough to concern his mother, who went to pick up her son after he called her in tears begging to come home.
At 16, she insists, he has never been involved in criminal activity, and to be targeted this way may send the wrong message. She says there was no need for the Police to treat her son this way regardless of what may have happened.
Father of another youth at the camp, Junior Willoughby, told us that he has not had communication with his son since he went there, and wonders what may be happening to him.
He added that the Government should concentrate on “cleaning its house” – getting rid of corrupt and negligent officers – before addressing the crime problem, because he believes it is Police who are responsible for what is happening.
The youth says he was previously told by Precinct 2 officer in charge of community policing, Sergeant Brent Hamilton, before leaving for the camp, that he would be going to learn a trade, and the families say police basically lied to them about the intent of the camp experience.
He also says pictures taken of his bruises by a female police officer were later deleted.
General Jones has said that the program will continue into the short and medium-term, but needs finances beyond that.
Those who are to return to school would be allowed to do so and those out of school would be kept.
According to Senior Superintendent Broaster, younger youths are being pressured into doing errands and “hits” on behalf of the gangs by older members who are already well-known to Police.
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