Posted: Sunday, November 14, 2021. 12:35 pm CST.
By Hugh O’Brien: When you ask any police officer in San Ignacio why they have a checkpoint in front of the police station on market day, Saturday, the common response is “boss we just di do we job”. It is becoming a cultured decision within the rank and file of the police in San Ignacio that checkpoints on a Saturday, an already busy day, is a wise move, and these ‘well trained’ officers are proud of having lots of vehicles and drivers having to subscribe and pass through their checkpoint.
The police view these checkpoints on an already busy day or during rush hour as a “talented’ move…a move that in their mind is capable of earning ‘lots of dollars’ from the ‘lots of tickets’ that they hope to issue for all the breaches they are hoping to find in drivers or vehicles not having their drivers license, vehicle license or vehicle insurance. They are so ‘talented’ that they contribute to further traffic congestion, causing vehicles to line up from the police station all the way down to the market area. In their ‘talented’ minds, having so much vehicles line up means that a lot of expensive fuel is being burnt, and as a result a ‘lot of tax dollars’ is being earned for the government (Government charges around $5.00 tax on every gallon of fuel) as tons of drivers waste fuel as they creep ‘turtledovely’ towards the checkpoint.
The police are so ‘talented’ that they do not realize that anyone without their license or insurance can easily divert as the long line is a warning that a police checkpoint may be up ahead. And based on the amount of checkpoints the police set up in Belize to check on drivers license and insurance, this is a sign that their ‘talent’ is telling them that these offenses are major crimes that need an intense checkpoint policy to address.
Because not having your drivers or vehicle license or insurance is such a major crime, one day while driving from San Ignacio to Corozal with a pair of tourist, I passed 8 checkpoints on my way to Corozal, and 5 on the way back, a total of 13 checkpoints in one day – all asking for your drivers license and checking on the license and insurance stickers on the vehicle. While passing these 13 checkpoints, I didn’t see any of them checking to see if the brakes or lights on vehicles are working, however am sure that based on suspicion a couple of the vehicles may have been searched for drugs or guns.
One year I was counting to see how much checkpoints I would pass in one year…I stopped counting after I had passed over 300 checkpoints and there was still a couple months left for the year to end. Why a country invests more than 300 times in one year to check my drivers license and vehicle stickers makes me think we are a very rich country, with tons of resources to waste and that we are so ‘talented’ that we do not believe that there are better ways to check on drivers license, vehicle license and third party insurance.
For some time now, I’ve wanted to write about checkpoints in Belize. Instead I chose to share a couple ideas with some of the police officers, including senior officers, as well as many of the friends I have within the ranks of the police department. Most of my suggestions have been met with ‘dumb insolence’ because of the serious ‘talent’ that exists in the department. These guys are taught these failed checkpoint policies at the police training academy, these guys believe in their checkpoints, and there is a feeling that these checkpoints will not be subject to change in the near future – not under the UDP, or now under the PUP. This is the reason why “boss we just di do we job” is the common response given by these ‘talented’ officers.
Me say there are better ways, more modern ways, more technologically savvier ways. We can learn from what other countries are doing, use more practical color coding methods or equipment, and we can use the knowledge gained from the pandemic to seek online and virtual solutions to checking for license and insurance.
I will write about some innovative solutions in a separate article very soon. For now my message to the Police officers in San Ignacio, the Commissioner Chester Williams and the rest of his ‘talented’ police officers…let it not be checkpoint as usual. Let’s reduce the number of checkpoints, let’s coordinate the setting up of checkpoints with the transport (GOB) and traffic (town board and city council) officers, lets’ make our checkpoints more effective, let’s use random checking, and let’s modernize and digitize our inspection system for drivers license, vehicle license, vehicle insurance, and let’s reform our checkpoint programme.
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