This picture shows the reality of a San Pedro resident who got beaten up by a Police Officer who clearly abused her power of authority. What makes matters worse is that the police officers involved in this case of abuse were allegedly off duty, without their uniform and drinking at a local bar.
The end result is that three island residents have been charged for various offenses as the police officers turned the case on them. But the four island residents are fighting back and filing counter charges on the officers with proof and eye witness accounts to back them up.
The altercation occurred between 12:30 – 1:30a.m. on Monday, December 17 at the Tackle Box . According to Ricky Jurado, his girlfriend was approached by one of the police who was off duty and without uniform. The officer placed his hands on her waist and wanted to dance with her. This was when Jurado confronted him and admits to only raising his voice and telling the officer to respect his girlfriend. Jurado stated that this was when he intended to leave the establishment to avoid any trouble, but that the officers were waiting for him as he descended the dock.
Words broke out and a shoving match erupted, at which point the off duty officer drew his gun and pointed it at the face, head and mouth of Jurado. His only option was to follow their instructions as they dragged him down to the beach, onto the streets of town and to the Police Station.
Upon seeing this altercation, Jurado’s friend Vianna Perez and her boyfriend, approached the officers to find out what was taking place and that was when they were assaulted by a woman officer who was trying to stop them from taking pictures of the incident. Perez and Mauricio were also beaten with a baton, allegedly by WPC Young. Perez received the brunt of the assault as she received multiple cut wounds to the head and a bruised up body and face.
Eyewitnesses have confirmed that all four residents were being abused by the police officers and they were not being violent in retaliation; in fact, they were being quite submissive. There are indications of a video that a by standard took that could be critical to the case.
San Pedro Police Officers PC Mark Young, WPC Sherifa Young and a third person identified by police only as Mr. Belisle are under investigation following the incident, but remain on active duty. Jurado and Mauricio were also charged with Assaulting a Police Officer and Obstruction; both men as well as Perez were released on bail.
Incidents like this and three other that occurred just last week have island residents fearing officers of the San Pedro Police Department instead of bestowing their trust on people who they rely for protection. There was also an incident at Central Park on Saturday where the Police used pepper spray and brandished their gun to disperse a crowd that had gathered to witness a fight between two people. Then there has also been an incident where officers apprehended, robbed and threatened the lives of tourists.
Clearly there seems to be a problem with proper police training as these officers are not using proper procedures in detaining & arresting people and crowd control. Police brandishing their guns when not necessary, assaulting innocent by standards and instilling fear into citizens is unacceptable. Residents of the island are even more fearful now that they cannot rely or trust the San Pedro Police Department.
San Pedro is just bouncing back from a global recession and a slow season this year and real estate offices, resorts/hotels and restaurants are already seeing a drop in numbers from this time last year. The Belize Tourism Board has put out great numbers in tourist arrivals for this year, but in order to keep this trend going, officials on the island, especially our Minister of Tourism who is also the Area Representative of the island, MUST step up his actions and authority in protecting the security of the island and the tourism industry.
The San Pedro Police Department needs some serious reconstructing; new and lots more police officers are needed for a town that keeps growing; better salaries need to allocated for these officers to want to do their job right and not hustle money on the side; assistance needs to allocated for the police and a constant monitoring system needs to be placed to watch over the department. Both the Minister of Tourism and Defense/National Security need to look into this matter immediately so that the situation does not get worse in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. The entire country of Belize has much to lose if tourism on the island starts being affected even more. Ambergris Caye is the most popular tourism destination in the country, its protection is vital and essential.
San Pedro Mayor Daniel Guerrero released this statement on the current Police situation:
“As your Mayor, I am listening to the concerns as it relates to the recent developments between certain members of the San Pedro Police Department and local residents and visitors to our island. I am asking our residents to be calm especially as we move closer into the Christmas season.
As a matter of urgency, I will be meeting with the Officer in Charge of the San Pedro Police Assistant Superintendent of Police Viennie Robinson on Wednesday, December 19, 2012. I hope that after meeting with OC Robinson, I will be able to convene a meeting with as much members of the San Pedro Police Formation and all the Councilors and together hope to discuss the recent development and chart a new way forward. I also plan to do whatever is within my power to address the recent issues and I will also be meeting with the Area Representative and discuss the problems and try to find the best possible solutions.
I want to assure you that I share the concerns being highlighted by many of our residents and agree that we need to address the issue with swiftness. My only plea to my fellow residents is to be calm and let’s move positively in finding solutions. My best wish is for our love ones, family and friends to be safe and enjoy the holiday that is just a few days away!”
Residents have already extended their support to Mayor Guerrero, volunteering their time to assist the Town Council, Police Department and conduct forums where incidents and issues can be discussed, some solutions provided and effective action taken.