By Marion Ali
Belize’s Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) is taking steps to improve the transparency of its operations, GSU Commander, Inspector Mark Flowers said Thursday.
Flowers, who took over less than a month ago, told this newspaper that the GSU has established a system of recording its planned operations to quell allegations over transparency issues.
According to Flowers, there are standard operational procedures by which the GSU functions, and recording its operations is one of its measures for credence and integrity purposes.
Flowers said that the recording of planned operations has always been a practice that he supports, particularly in instances where people express doubt about the unit’s purpose and agenda.
“We will continue to do it and move all the doubts and ambiguities that may arise from operations because of lack of transparency…We want to be a group that is accountable and responsible for our actions,” he continued.
The way it works is that on different operations, different officers are tasked to record the raids.
The unit has one analyst who downloads and stores the recordings for reference.
“We can’t do it for every stop and search that we make, but if we are going to a house, especially for indoor operation, this is where the public’s eyes are inaccessible.
“We want to have public viewing of what we do and we want to make it very very clear that there’s no need to hide with our operations, except perhaps the identity of our officers. That is the only thing that we conceal.
We have never tried to conceal what we do. What we do is permitted by law.”
Flowers explained that the recording of these operations start when the officers dismount their vehicle and end when they return to the vehicle.
He added that the recording officer cannot rewind the recording because of special encoding features on the equipment.
Since the commissioning of the GSU four years ago, there have been two officers who were transferred to other units within the Belize Police Department based on the outcome of investigations over using excessive force.
The use of such a system, as described by Flowers, is important for a police unit that is haunted by a history of reports of officers using excessive force in the line of duty.
This week, another such report found its way to the media, as Kariq Tzul, one of two men who were taken into custody, on Wednesday, claimed that GSU officers beat him.
Tzul said that he needed urgent medical treatment because of the beating, and provided proof of that medical consultation in the form of a prescription from Medical Associates Hospital.
His bill for that one visit is said to be almost $300 .Doctors have diagnosed him with a badly bruised left rib cage.
Tzul, in an interview with Channel 7 News, said that he was not taken to the police station nor was he charged for any offence.
“They didn’t take me to station,” Tzul told 7News, “They drove me around and around the area and when they done they took me by Amara by Lion King.”
Wednesday’s alleged case of police brutality came at a time when the opposition, People’s United Party has been calling for the removal of its new chief Flowers, while assuring their constituents that, when elected, they will dismantle the unit.