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Commissioner of Police grapples with perception of “trigger-happy culture” in Department after spate of officer-involved shootings

Posted: Tuesday, March 28, 2023. 9:34 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: With a former cop about to face his fate on manslaughter charges, the State having to pay out for mistreatment leading to death in the case of Allyson Major, and now two cops facing murder charges for the seemingly unnecessary death of a 19-year-old that was apparently fleeing them, how does the Department’s self-image as the “good though imperfect guys” square to a society that is steadily losing its trust in them?

Before murder charges were laid today, Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police, flanked by his lead investigators, faced up to the press yesterday and asked that society be fair and recognize that imperfect though the system is, it does work: “We‘re not going to profess to be a perfect organization. Just like every other organization in the world, we are imperfect, but to be fair to us, we have been holding our officers accountable. Like you said, we are awaiting the decision in the Laddie Gillett matter. It shows that we are serious about holding officers accountable when they step out of line. It just so happens that police officers are recruited from among the masses of people and the fact that they are, they are also susceptible to the weaknesses of humans and with that, no matter what we do, as much as we would not want to have incidents like these, they are going to happen from time to time.”

And despite his earlier concession that the force used by the officers was excessive and unnecessary, he maintained that more often than not, police have been greatly restrained during their operations and that isolated incidents such as these are marks on an otherwise nearly clean record: “Even under difficult circumstances where the ordinary human being would use a gun, the police officers chose not to. I don’t think it’s a fair comment to say that we have a culture of being trigger-happy. If you were to do an assessment of the police forces in the Caribbean region, you would see that Belize Police Department has one of the lowest rates of police-involved shootings compared to our sister countries. It is not to justify what happens, because if you have one, it’s one too much, we should not have any. But again, like I said, we’re dealing with human beings and all the weaknesses that all the ordinary human beings have, police officers have them too.”

That extends to the investigation, as he reiterated that “I can tell them so long as I sit here as commissioner of police, I am not going to cover the wrongdoing of no police officer, none. It will not serve us any good to do so and again, I would ask them to look at previous instances, and what did we do. I think that our track record speaks for itself, in terms of investigating our own.”

The Commissioner added that because of their training, he holds his officers to a higher standard, and trusts them to see things differently from an ordinary human being.

Williams said that he does not fault the family for not trusting the police and so he is open to having the investigative team meet with the family or with an attorney as has been done with previous high-profile cases to go over the file and earn their assurance. It was not indicated if this was done before charges were levied as we previously reported this evening.

 

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