Editorial, Amandala

Lost in the news last week was that a couple police officers in Santa Elena allegedly resisted a bribe of $2,000 from a Belize City woman to look the other way as she and a male companion tried to transport 33 pounds of cannabis in a car, presumably to Belize City. The police was supposed to get kudos for such stout honesty in the ranks. They never did.

Our reports are that some years ago a couple officers in Belize City similarly resisted a bribe. The officers on patrol had found $180,000 cash stashed inside a car driven by some local street figures. The bribe, naturally, was huge. It was reportedly in a range that would have exceeded the officers’ combined salary for the year. Again, back then the officers never really got the public recognition and commendation they so justly deserved.

We believe that police officers face varying levels of temptation almost routinely on the job. It is for sure that they are not exactly the highest paid public officers around, and so it follows that the temptation to yield in the face of handsome bribe packages would be great, sometimes downright irresistible. Those two instances, we are sure, are not the only instances of police honesty. But again, like Rodney Dangerfield, they get no respect.

There are many reasons why that is so. And there is enough blame to go around.

Austerity and declining economic output doesn’t help crime. Having 30,000 school-aged children out of school won’t help. When 43 percent of your people are considered poor and another 15,000 vulnerable to poverty, what can we expect. When fathers disappear and mothers must fend on their own or with stepfathers who are abusive and/or unemployed, go figure – crime will be through the roof for sure.

We didn’t need the Gayle report to tell us – a lot of our children are going to bed hungry, and 50 percent of our children are not completing secondary school.

And we didn’t need the Crooks report to tell us the budget for the police leaves a lot to be desired.

21 murders in the month of April, one of the bloodiest moments in recent memory; at one point 14 murders in 15 days. The public is uneasy, tense, even scared. The last few weeks have not helped – public suspicion of the police is at an all-time high. The whispers in the streets are heavy.

We have tried to establish that crime is not generally caused by the police. We have tried to show that for us to see the kinds of decline in the crime levels that we all so desire, a lot of agencies and government departments and ministries will have to get off their butts. A lot of things will have to start coming together to prevent us from going under.

But we have a gentle admonition for the police, because they are not without blame. Their behavior of late suggests they see the public as their enemy, and not as their employers. Their behavior suggests they feel like solving crime can be done without public participation and support. And they could not be more wrong.

Trampling on citizens’ rights, abusing and harassing them will not make the police’s job easier. Some years ago there were as many as 500 complaints against the police in one calendar year alone, and reports are the complaints have not relented. When you consider that the vast majority of the complaints go unsettled or certainly not resolved to the satisfaction of the complainants, then you get an idea of how many enemies the police make each year.

Modern policing is complex. Thing have changed a lot. Not all the criminals wear sagging jeans and white Tees, and not all the unemployed youth on the street are criminals.

There have been so many reports on crime in this country over the years and so many hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on those reports. But the Crooks report said something to us about the culture of the police that is worth mentioning.

According to Crooks, less than one percent of the training syllabus of the police recruits focuses on crime prevention and sociology/psychology, and only one percent focuses on human dignity and conflict resolution. Then we wonder why the police are so hostile to the public. Simply put, they have not been taught better.

We are more than a bit depressed when we look around us and see all that has gone wrong in our communities. The public is the eyes and ears of the police. When that most fundamental of relationships comes apart, and there is very little indication it will be corrected anytime soon, we feel more hopeless.

All we can do is join the rest of the nation in prayer. It is written. All power to the people.