By Marion Ali
Three police constables, who over the past several weeks have come under scrutiny on allegations made by the public, have been disciplined by Professional Standards Bureau, while a fourth has been sentenced to prison by the court system.
On Wednesday, the commander of the bureau, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Glen Rivero told reporters that two of the constables have been disciplined for uncivil behaviour while on duty and one of them has additionally been charged with prejudice against order and discipline.
These are related to injuries that Armani Bailey reportedly suffered in early September at the hands of the two constables who took him from his aunt’s home on West Canal to Belizean Beach where they are said to have administered a beating on him and left him inside a trash receptacle. Bailey later sought help from a nearby resident to take a bus back to Belize City proper. The two constables, according to Rivero, will also be charged criminally for the incident.
In San Pedro, another constable, Oscar Ramirez, was also disciplined internally and charged criminally with extortion following a report by an island resident who said he tried to extort $1000 from his family for the release of his mother, Mirna Judith Bergandz, who was detained for traffic offences. The youth claimed that they paid the policeman $600.
Meanwhile, police corporal, Darius Martinez, was sentenced this week to 18 months imprisonment after the court found him guilty of attempting to corrupt a fellow police officer. The allegation against him came from a female member of the Gang Suppression Unit.
Martinez was working at the time as a security guard for former antivirus guru, John McAffee, whose property in Orange Walk was searched by the GSU in 2012.
The tribunals and subsequent actions by the bureau, Rivero added, are part of an effort to clean up the department of rogue cops and to assure the public that “there is no such brotherhood when it comes to corruption and abuse” in the Belize Police Department. The two constables are part of a set of lawmen who have come under investigation for abuse of their authority.
“We have a zero tolerance…as it relates to corruption and abuse”, he said. “Abuse will not be condoned.”
Rivero said that if the Commissioner of Police, Allen Whylie sees it fit, he can interdict lawmen while they are under investigation. Upon conviction, they are dismissed from the department. Currently there are 19 law enforcers on interdiction pending the outcome of investigations.
Other complaints against policemen, includimg the head of the Gang Suppression Unit, Inspector Mark Flowers, are still under investigation, according to Rivero. Some of the incidents, he added, cannot be expedited as easily as in the case of senior (commissioned) officers, since the procedures in dealing with them have to go through the Public Services Commission.
Flowers, who has been criticized for his aggressive approach to dealing with crime, is under investigation for two complaints made against him: one for an incident on Wilson Street when he allegedly “roughed up” a couple residents of the area, and another incident which occurred early Saturday morning when GSU members, including Flowers, allegedly brutalized mechanic, Allan McCoy, who the unit accused of knocking a GSU member off the motorcycle he was riding on North Front Street.