By BBN Staff:Attorneys are sounding the alarm that a new crime fighting strategy being used by the Belize Police Department is a blatant violation of people’s constitutional rights.
After refusing to respond to the question for weeks, the police acknowledged yesterday that officers are using their personal cell phones to take photos of persons who are stopped and searched. Police Legal Adviser, Bart Jones, told the media that the practice was effective at bringing down complaints about police brutality, because officers have evidence of the condition people were left in after their interaction with the police.
Jones also acknowledged that the practice is not expressly permitted within the scope of the Police Act, Chapter 138 of the Laws of Belize, but refused to comment further as members of the media pressed on the constitutionality of the practice.
The Human Rights Commission of Belize is calling for the immediate rollback of the strategy, calling it counterproductive and obscenely offensive to democracy, that persons who are neither accused nor charged for any crimes are having their picture taken. The commission also said that there are clear prejudices towards ethnicity and social class which can be seen in the commission, which increases the urgency for the issue to be addressed.
The commission went on to say that if the police do not immediately cease the practice, that legal action needs to be sought to ensure that Belizeans are protected. The commission pointed to the Chapter 2, Section 14 (1) of the Constitution of Belize, which guarantees the right to privacy and that safety from arbitrary or unlawful interference with that privacy.