“As a police officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind, to safeguard lives and property, to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder, and to respect the constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality and justice.”
So reads the police code on conduct published on the department’s website, but two citizens are accusing the police of gross violations of their code of conduct. In a third case, a group of five Belize Defence Force officers are being accused of beating two Belizean teens they labeled as Guatemalans with their belts.
Man says cop broke his arm and threw him into river
Nursing a broken arm in a sling, Deon Bainton, 33, a pastry vendor of Pickstock Street, Belize City, visited our newspaper today, laying down a serious allegation of police brutality.
He told us that he was brutalized by a police officer whose neighbor allegedly lied to him, saying that Bainton was involved in a burglary of the said officer’s Ladyville home.
Bainton explained that he and his girlfriend went to Ladyville to stay with his mother during the threat of Hurricane Rina. He said that he was later informed, after he had returned to Belize City, that the home of a Ladyville resident, a police officer, had been burglarized at some point.
According to Bainton, on Monday, November 21, while he was walking home, a police vehicle stopped him and informed him that he appeared on a wanted poster, and that he was to accompany them to the police station.
Bainton said that when he arrived at the police station, he was told that nobody wanted to see him, yet, his photograph was labeled as “wanted.”
He said that he was then detained and informed that the officer whose house he was being accused of burglarizing wanted to see him.
Bainton said that the officer eventually came and handcuffed him. The officer wrote down that Bainton was officially discharged from detention and took him away from the station, to Ladyville, where he presented him to the neighbor who was alleging that he had bought the stolen items from Bainton. He said that this officer held his “own court,” at which the neighbor presented the false allegation once again.
Bainton told us that he denied ever burglarizing this officer’s house and selling any items to the neighbor, but the officer wouldn’t listen, and he proceeded to question and beat him for nearly three hours, asking him about the rest of his missing items.
The officer broke a police baton while beating him on his arms and legs, Bainton said. The result of that beating was that Bainton’s left forearm was broken, and he sustained a large cut-wound on that same arm that had to be stitched.
That was not enough, said Bainton, adding that the officer proceeded with him to the Haulover Bridge and dumped him into the river.
Bainton said he was able to swim to safety, and he later sought medical attention.
He now has a cast on his left arm, and he is grieved that he is unable to carry out basic, daily functions due to his injuries.
Bainton told us that he hasn’t yet filed a formal complaint, but he intends to.
He said that he came to the press because he fears that the officer may return and try to hurt, or worse, kill him.
Mother alleges special constable choked teen daughter
In another allegation of police brutality that emerged last night, Raquel Burke has complained to the media that a special constable assaulted her teenaged daughter on a bus.
She said that her daughter had been detained for a public disturbance, and the officer-in-charge of the Queen Street Police Station attempted to refuse her the right to seek medical attention after they allegedly used excessive force on the girl.
Burke told us tonight that Kinemah Barrow, 15, a resident of Hattieville who attends the Gwen Lizarraga High School evening classes, routinely looks after her 9-year-old brother who attends Stella Maris School and has a speech impediment.
Burke said that according to her daughter and witnesses, Barrow was trying to get her brother (Burke’s son) on the 4:30 p.m. bus yesterday.
They were also trying to maneuver a wheelchair, which Burke uses for a leg injury she recently received.
Burke said that conductors sometimes have difficulty with the wheelchair, and this specific conductor told them that the chair couldn’t be put on the bus.
Burke said that according to Barrow, the 9-year-old told the conductor that the seat must get on the bus, and because of the speech issue, it may have come across to the conductor as disrespectful.
This conductor allegedly assaulted the boy for his comments, and Barrow jumped into the dispute to protect her younger brother.
There was a special constable on the bus, who attempted to get control of the situation, but he didn’t identify himself as an officer immediately, she added. He got involved in the escalating fight between the conductor and Barrow.
This officer then allegedly grabbed Barrow by her arm and attempted to put it behind her, as if to handcuff her.
Burke said that in that attempt, the officer twisted her arm. She said that she was informed that there was a police officer who was “man-handling” her daughter, so she left Hattieville quickly, and she found that her daughter was being detained.
The officer has claimed that Barrow punched him when her hand was twisted.
Burke said that the police responded in kind by punching Barrow on her arm and face. This officer then allegedly grabbed Barrow by the throat, choking her.
The mother said that she accompanied her daughter to the Queen Street Police Station, where, she said, the officers were being disrespectful. She said that she was upset about the situation. She complained that the police refused to allow her daughter to get medical attention.
It was Police Press Officer Fitzroy Yearwood, who spoke to the officer-in-charge, and eventually permitted her daughter to be taken to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital for medical attention.
Burke insists that the officer should have identified himself on the bus, and that he should never have hit her daughter.
BDF accused of lashing teen
In a third case of police brutality to reach our news desk this week, Wildo Howe, a Benque Viejo resident, said that an officer from among a group of 5 Belize Defence Force officers abused his son, 16-year-old Luis Howe, and his nephew, 15-year-old Daniel Howe, both Belizeans.
According to Wildo Howe, the boys were near the Mopan River, which runs between Belize and Guatemala, getting water from a water pump when the BDF officers approached them and started to scold them, calling them “Guatemalans.”
Howe said that the boys attempted to convince the BDF that they were Belizeans, but they wouldn’t believe. One of the officers then took off his belt and whipped the boys, allegedly for no apparent reason.
Howe said that he was upset, and he made a formal report to Benque police, who are now investigating.
Police “mum” on allegations
We spoke to Police Press Officer, Sergeant Fitzroy Yearwood, who said that he is unable to comment on the first and last incidents, since no report has been forwarded to him.
He confirmed that he is aware of the Kinemah Barrow incident, and that the matter is being investigated.
He declined further comment until after a full police report has been presented to him on the findings.
Yearwood conceded that he had contacted the officer-in-charge at Queen Street Police Station to afford Barrow the right to seek medical attention.
Police Minister Dough Singh also refrained from comment when we contacted him today, saying that it would be improper for his office to blindly release a statement on any of the incidents until he has been presented with the details.
It remains to be seen how the other two incidents with the Howe boys and Deon Bainton will be handled, once a formal police report has been presented.