By Aaron Humes: Beginning earlier this week, a group of senior police officers are being trained as adjudicators within the Belize Police Department.
Commissioner of Police Chester Williams in an interview indicated that this is part of continuous training within the Department but sorely needed.
Adjudicators, which are appointed by the Commissioner, preside over internal tribunals held to address disciplinary issues in the Department and act effectively as magistrate presiding over the tribunal and responsible for making the final decisions on cases.
“What we are doing – the course started on Monday gone, and will run for two weeks. And within that two-week time span we are going to be bringing in a number of presenters, including some magistrates, and our team from our legal office, to go and present to these adjudicators, what are the rules governing the tribunals; what are the rules governing our courts; we’ll be looking at evidence; we’ll be looking at making no-case submissions; as well as making submissions to the adjudicator, as well as looking at mitigation, how to accept evidence and what evidence not to accept and these sort of things,” Williams said.
According to the Commissioner, the standard of proof in a tribunal is on the balance of probabilities as opposed to the far stricter standard in a court of beyond a reasonable doubt, lowering the standard of evidence needed. Adjudicators often take the stricter view in tribunal hearings.
Additionally, the Commissioner stated that officers are allowed up to two minor infractions before being dismissed for collective major infractions. But adjudicators have declined to dismiss officers with multiple minor infractions for a collective major infraction, instead leaving it to himself as Commissioner. “They do in fact, however, have the power to so recommend,” he said.
Elsewhere the Commissioner said that many officers, even from the recruit squad that graduated just this past December, have had to be dismissed for infractions and the Department is adopting a heavy hand so that all get the message that things have changed around the Department.