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Police end picture taking during stops and searches; court to hear lawsuits on ‘profiling’ practice

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Posted: Sunday, March 28, 2021. 6:04 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: An attorney for two Belize City men says civil lawsuits filed earlier this year against the Belize Police Department concerning officers taking photographs of individuals during stops and searches will continue, despite the Department hastily deciding earlier this week to end the practice.

Leslie Mendez of Marine Parade Chambers, acting for Bryton Codd and Greg Nunez whose claims were filed separately in December 2020 and January 2021, wrote on Friday that her clients “simply say that any feelings of relief or joy which the news may have prompted are markedly tempered by the impact the practice has had on them, and others who have been subjected to it.”

The matter is now before the court and Mendez expects that one way or another, the court will determine the constitutionality of “profiling,” as it has been referred to, and give the cops guidance on any future policy. She adds, “Additionally, the deeper strife which has been engendered between the public and the Police [Department] is a matter that remains with the Department to confront and address.”

An internal memorandum of the Department ordered the practice to cease except in circumstances where evidence is being gathered or someone is actually charged.

The practice had been heavily frowned upon even under the last administration, whose Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte was to report to Cabinet on it. But Police Commissioner Chester Williams pushed back, arguing that it was useful to some of his Department’s investigations and that its constitutionality would have to be decided judicially.

Codd and Nunez were separately subject to having their pictures taken when in the company of Police, despite never being charged with an offense.

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