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Police Commissioner condemns “gross negligence” by officers in prisoner escapes

Posted: Tuesday, December 12, 2023. 6:45 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: In the last month or so, there have twice been instances of prisoners of the State managing to escape the lawful custody of the Belize Police Department, with a third attempted escape over the weekend.

Of those five persons, two remain on the run: William Carabantes of San Martin, Belmopan, wanted for rape, and Hildebrandt Codd of Belize City, convicted of murder and facing sentencing.

The daring escape of Codd and Jessie Mejia last Tuesday from the High Court in Belize City is especially galling for Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, and he said as much during a press briefing on Monday: “I was extremely unhappy when I got the news of the escape of Codd and Mejia. That escape, for me, ought not to have happened and the police officers who were tasked to stand guard of those prisoners must take full responsibility for their inaction. The reason given to me by the able commander of Eastern Division is one that I cannot accept and will not accept.”

While the police are currently without the services of the cell block at the old Treasury Building which previously housed the Magistrate’s and High Courts after Hurricane Lisa’s devastating visit 13 months ago, the Commissioner said he would not excuse “gross negligence” on the part of the officers who were guarding Codd and Mejia and who abandoned their duties: “Yes, I understand that the prisoners were being kept in a jury room until they would have been called into the court. But again, I would have taken it differently if the prisoners were in the jury room, the police were there and they overpowered the police and escaped. I would have accepted that. But the police officers simply left the prisoners in the jury room and went about their business. That, for me, is gross negligence on the part of the police. We tried arduously to make sure that the matter particularly involving Hildebrandt Codd, be successfully prosecuted.” He mentioned the cooperation of the family of the deceased, Densmore Bowman, in progressing the case forward.

At Monday’s senior officers conference, the Commissioner said he reiterated that there is always room for improvement and that the Department has already been doing a lot. He also gave credit to the Leadership Intervention Unit (LIU) and other stakeholders for the marked reduction in murders and major crimes – while jabbing the Fourth Estate for not giving the Department more positive airtime.

That said, Police continue to chase Codd, the Commissioner mentioning that an effort to get Codd to turn himself in through his attorney the day he escaped fell flat. An all-points bulletin has been issued to the border points as well as to the Americans and Mexicans to be on the lookout for him and Commissioner Williams expressed confidence that he would be caught. He is due back in court on December 21 for sentencing.

 

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