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Police and politics – showdown between police officer and Minister with Commissioner in the middle

Posted: Wednesday, June 8, 2022. 10:14 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: The animated discussion with regard to the extent of one police officer’s involvement in politics has escalated to threats of legal action.

Attorney for Police Constable Alicia Trapp of Belmopan, Orson Elrington, wrote to Commissioner of Police Chester Williams on Tuesday questioning whether police will follow up on her complaint of assault, verbal and physical, by Julius Espat, the Area Representative for Cayo South and a Minister of Government.

Espat, who denies those claims, has struck back with a charge of defamation against the officer as outlined by Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck.

Constable Trapp, as confirmed by Commissioner Williams, is the subject of an investigation by the Professional Standards Branch for the political connection and the Facebook live broadcast at the Teakettle village council election, in which her common-law husband was reportedly running for chairman under a United Democratic Party slate.

Her public support, and use of social media, is at fault here, the Commissioner explained: “Having listened to the video footage, even if we were to disregard her confrontation with the Honorable Julius Espat, as police officers, we do have a code of conduct, and we do not expect our members to be ranting and raging on social media the way she did. It certainly is a clear violation of our social media policy. That’s one. Secondly, the Public Service Regulations clearly stipulate that members and public officers are not supposed to engage in any political activity, or perhaps to show themselves to be preferential to certain political parties.”

The Commissioner said he gleaned much from a single remark the officer made, or rather a single word: her use of the word “our” to refer to posters being carried by UDP vice-chairman Alberto August, which to him suggested a political alignment. The confrontation with “political animal” Espat (the term was not used pejoratively) confirmed for the Commissioner that “…if it is that you put yourself in the political arena, you must take what comes to you. You can’t get into a pig pen and not get muddy – don’t expect to get muddy. It’s simply that.”

Espat has told other media houses that this was essentially the point he was trying to get across to the officer, whom he recognized as providing security during Cabinet meetings: “So I told her, I know you want to support your husband’s campaign – because she is either the common law or full wife of the UDP Chairman. So, I told her, you can vote; that is fine. You can do background work; that is fine. But you can’t participate publicly and take sides. That is under the police regulations. I assume she wasn’t happy with that.”

The Commissioner on Tuesday pointed reporters to a 2001 circular from then CEO in the Ministry of the Public Service, Marian McNab, which cited the prohibition on public officers’ involvement but allowed that public officers may participate in officially “non-partisan” village council elections. The most recent Public Service Regulations, promulgated in 2014, in Section 60 leave out village council elections among the list of election processes public officers may not participate in, at least under a political banner.

Elrington, however, points to the Police Act, which explicitly prohibits a police officer from being a candidate, scrutineer, or political agent in any election including a village council election, but does not prohibit other activity.

More importantly, he put the Department on notice that any attempt to “punish” Constable Trapp would be seen as a violation of her constitutional rights and draw legal action.


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