Posted: Monday, April 4, 2022. 10:27 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: 19-year-old Shamar Foster’s sudden confrontation with police occurred, he said, because he dared to question the officer’s authority to search him.
Foster told us today after an initial interview with the Professional Standards Branch (PSB) that he was with guests awaiting a flight to San Pedro Town on Friday evening when a police mobile arrived and the male officer came over and asked him for a search.
“I then asked him, ‘what are you looking for? Who sent you? Why are you searching me?’ He then replied and said that I should not ever, ever, question the police’s authority; just stand up and let me search you. I told them no; it is my right to ask what I am being searched for. So he said, ‘You think you smart? Tell me two a yuh rights dehn.’ I went ahead and said, right to clean water and sanitation and right to freedom of speech – and I think that really [expletive] him off, he got mad,” the youth said.
The angry officer then demanded Shamar put his hands up, but as he did, he [Shamar] continued to record video and the officer threw a hand in the direction of the hand holding the phone. Shamar said he stepped back as the officer held up his gun and said, with an expletive, if he, Shamar, wanted this to get nasty, then threatened to take him to the police station and charge him with assault of a police officer.
By this time bystanders had come out and the officer had taken him from behind by the back of his shirt. The officer then told him to stop “profiling” him, referring presumably to the video recording, before finally slapping the phone from his hand and walking away.
The incident left Shamar with a bad taste in his mouth, both for himself and for the Police Department: “The reason why I asked why is he searching me, [is] because I was with my guests; I can’t let this police officer come and search me in front of my guests – how would that look for me? That really looks bad on the Belize Police Department – that happened in front of tourists; it brings a black eye on the tourist industry in Belize. I just want justice; I want something to be done.”
He added that he feared being taken away and locked up at the station – even possibly becoming “another Laddie Gillett,” in reference to the infamous killing of the Cayo-based youth last July in Placencia.
This evening, Foster’s attorney Leslie Mendez released a statement reiterating that her client has no criminal record, is gainfully employed as a boat captain while still a student, and is presently attending a tour guide training course. She added that he never retaliated against the officer who hit him twice despite being threatened to be charged with assault; that nothing was found on him or among his belongings, and that the responding officers justified their tactics by saying he “looked suspicious” and apparently did not “look like a tour guide.”
Mendez writes, “…the incident once again lays bare the chronic deficiencies within the Police Department. Through a dangerously wide interpretation of their power to stop and search, officers misuse this power to operationalize their prejudices and adopt all manner of repressive tactics against ordinary citizens, who simply demand to be treated like actual human beings, deserving of respect, rights and dignity. Shamar will be making an official complaint to the Professional Standards Branch and pursuing all available legal remedies against the officers and the Department.”
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