REPORT #95 August 1999

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

9-8-99 *** News 5 On-line
Residents claim brutality, police say self-defense
It sounds like a case of self-defense. An officer and his partner approach a suspect, he flees, they chase him. He turns around wielding a knife, and injures one of the officers. The officers fire a warning shot and are then forced to shoot the suspect to bring him down. But while this is the official version of what occurred on Sunday night in King's Park as relayed by the Police Department's press officer, witnesses claim it was a clear-cut case of police brutality. And one woman who watched the whole incident from her verandah was more than willing to tell News Five, and the public, what she saw and who was involved.

Residents say the only thing thirty-seven year old George Murphy, a U.S. deportee may be guilty of is failing to report to the police station for his scheduled weekly visits as required. According to Jerrylyn Diego, a resident of number twenty-six corner St. Joseph and Simon Lamb Streets, she was home around eight thirty Sunday night when C.I.B. officers stormed into her yard.

Jerrylyn Diego, Eyewitness
"When they come into my yard they told me that they were looking for a young man and I told them what young man what is his name? They didn't reply and I told them, "look you guys don't have any right to come into my yard with gun because I have kids living in this house and my bathroom is downstairs, you are totally wrong" and they didn't answer me."

Diego says shortly after that the C.I.B. officers moved off but when she got upstairs and looked off her verandah she saw they had reversed their vehicle and approached Murphy as he was walking on Simon Lamb Street. Diego said she could not hear what was being said but she says they then attacked Murphy.

Jerrylyn Diego:
"The three of them hold the young man into that open lot and that is when they beat him in there. My children were with me on the verandah so I tell them to go inside because I don't want them to witness this."

Diego said after they beat Murphy for what she estimates was about ten minutes with a two-by-four, a C.I.B. officer that they all recognized then shot Murphy twice: once below his left knee and then in the ankle.

Jerrylyn Diego:
"At that time when he got shot, they had already beat him up already, done beat him up. And it is the C.I.B. who do it, right, because when he fired the shot the young man was going to jump the drain that time he got beat up already. He was all full up of blood."

Diego told News Five that contrary to media reports, Murphy who lives about four houses away from where the incident took place was not armed with any weapon and did not stab any police officer.

Jerrylyn Diego:
"That is total nonsense; that is total nonsense; that is not so. That young man was unarmed. He walk along here and he did not disturb anybody. He didn't have anything. Okay? He didn't have anything to fight more than one officers over there; he didn't have anything. Total nonsense! They are only saying that to cover up themselves because they know they are at fault right now and everybody along this street knows."

According to family members, besides the two gunshot wounds, Murphy received cuts to the left side of his face, injuries to his mouth and bruises all over the body. According to the family the only reason their brother initially walked away from the police was because he feared being picked up for failing to report to the station. Sources tell News Five Murphy was being sought in connection with a robbery on Baymen Avenue sometime last week. Although the police press officer told News Five that an officer was stabbed during the incident and taken to the hospital, sources at K.H.M.H. say they are not aware of any officer getting injured and that Murphy was the only patient who was treated.

Magistrates in Belize berate the police as not doing the investigative work necessary to prosecute court cases. The colonial model of police nationwide meant to control a colonial people has gone awry in this newly independent country. The police are accused in articles in the press, of relying on beatings and torture to get confessions. Accused are kept in jail for months at a time on legal postponements and other judicial excuses. Re-arrests on 72 hours holding time are common. You no sooner get out free from an incomplete investigation is covered by re-arresting you and throwing you back in jail for another 72 hours. The police in Belize are worse than the criminals. Crime itself is up. This is attributed more to the political governing structure which makes the country a fuedal dictatorship on the monarchist model. The police force are modeled and operate under the old Norman style, where they respond to the politicians and not to the voters. There is no checks and balances in the system. Instead of Barons, we have dictatorial ministers for five year cycles using the police as political tools and the police themselves operating as muscle, as in the olden feudal days in England. A modern voter conrolled de-centralized local police force is required for any hopes of lowering crime and bringing democracy to Belize. It is all part of development. A police force that operates as muscle nationwide for political interests holds back investment and development interests. The situation is always too uncertain. This is no security for an investor.

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