We all know about the GSU, the Gang Suppression Unit. They are very controversial for their aggressive operations - but, if you go by the numbers, they are also very effective - and their weapons seizures alone are unmatched by any other single police unit or formation. The GSU is also believed to be largely free of the corruption that bedevils other police units.
And that model of a specialized, insulated unit of elite and clean officers is what may be motivating the formation of another specialized unit, designed to be highly efficient and effective.
It's a US funded initiative - and it was launched at the police training academy in Belmopan today. 7news was there:
Jules Vasquez Reporting
The sound is real, but the explosives and bullets are not - it's a demonstration by the police department's latest elite unit, the Mobile Interdiction Team or MIT.
The 20 member multi agency unit debuted this morning with training and about a half a million dollars in equipment from the US Government.
H. E. Vinai Thummalapally - US Ambassador to Belize
"Just 5 weeks ago, 2 immigration agents, 2 customs agents, and 16 policemen met in a classroom to begin training as members of the MIT. All came from different backgrounds, different organizational structures, and different experiences. The students' days began at 6 a.m. with intense physical fitness training, followed by hours of instruction on tactical and operational training modules."
And the unit's tasking is to...
H. E. Vinai Thummalapally
"They interdict and seize drugs, laundered money, weapons, traffickers and other instruments that allow criminals to intimidate good citizens, and diminish the progress of security in Belize."
George Lovell - CEO, Ministry of National Security
"It is also my hope that this MIT Unit, in a very short time, will provide the capacity that we are longing for in our law enforcement agencies in the contraception of contraband, and disrupting of networks used by criminal organizations throughout this country."
Inspector Leslie Wade - Commander, MIT
"It will be intelligence-led unit, we will operate based on intelligence. Our interdictions will be primarily in drug, firearms and ammunition, and also border patrols where illegal immigrants and contraband are concerned."
Jessie Munoz - US Customs and Border Protection
"We wanted to set them up where they are a tool for any body or organization in the law enforcement in Belize. But specifically, the training is geared toward the boarder region, whether if it's the western border, the northern border - generally kind of like how the US Border Patrol on the Southwest border with Mexico. If you looking at things like the medical training that took place, that's geared towards these guys taking care of themselves because they're going to be far away from a fixed facility like a hospital. A lot of the stuff like the patrolling, the stuff in the vehicles, it's for them to go out in remote areas, stay out there, and work for extended periods of time."
But, how will they fit in with other enforcement units?
Lt. Col. George Lovell
"What this team offers us now is that forward deployment capability, where they will be out there in the areas where things happen. Hopefully, they will be able to operate because it's mobile, with some sense of surprise, to be able to interdict."
But how will they do it without duplicating efforts or stepping unto the turf of other
"This is a unit, that is, for the first time in our history being embedded to be a joint team, a team that will bring to it a joint concept."
But, it may also be that the concept is to get past business as usual in law enforcement:
"I think we want to do things differently, and it is one way that we can do it differently. It makes it a little more difficult for people to say, 'Oh, it is the corrupt police', or 'It is the corrupt customs officials' - or any one department for that matter. What this offers us is some level of assurance that it will be far more difficult for a unit like this, who have not been together for a long time, to be corrupted too easily."
Sounds good, but how sustainable is it?
"This is something that we believe that we can sustain. We believe that we can sustain it simply because most of the things that will be brought to this unit are things that are currently being run by the various departments, salaries for the individuals."
And while all these dogs need is a treat - this elite unit will need to keep stocked on their highly specialized arsenal of equipment - which are identical to those used by US border patrol.
The initial training was only three weeks - but there will be two more rounds of training led by the US Border patrol - at which point the Belizean officers will take over the continuous training.
The team had its first deployment last week.