Complaining about police abuses has become a regular feature of the evening news - but tonight, the police are the ones doing the complaining about their own senior command.
The issue is police transfers - the Police Association says a new round of them has been executed with undue haste and extreme lack of consideration.
They spoke out publicly on Friday and continued today saying that the Force Administration is ignoring their concerns.
It's gotten so bad that according to them, the officers who feel victimized by this rush transfer will go to court - if they continue to be ignored.
Daniel Ortiz examined in detail the true nature of the alleged indifference of the Administration to even consider their written correspondence.
Daniel Ortiz Reporting
The Police Association has submitted in writing a list of all the officers aggrieved by the rush transfers.
But, the problem is that the Police Administration has only made promises to address the situation. The association believes that there is deliberate foot-dragging - maybe even a deliberate ignorance.
Corporal Eldon Arzu - Acting President, Police Association
"Yesterday, at about 11 a.m., the Police Association forwarded the names of aggrieved officers, directly to the Commissioner of Police, and the officer in charge of Personnel Desk, for their consideration. The meeting that we held Friday, last week, the Commissioner of Police agreed to go through the names, as long as we submitted the list of names, to try to see how he could rectify. Having submitted the names, we have not received any response from the Department as to what will be the outcome of those aggrieved officers."
They claimed there were officers who were not even given the decency of a written notification, after been transferred around twice in the space of 4 week.
"Can you give us examples of certain officers who are now put in a bad position?"
Corporal Eldon Arzu
"We have several cases, and I will speak of a case in Caye Caulker. There was an officer who was recently transferred from Corozal to Belize City. Subsequently, he was transferred to Caye Caulker. Now, this officer has only been in Caye Caulker, I believe, less than a month. Now this officer was informed - not by anything in writing, but verbally - that he must now come back into Belize City. I want to make it clear that we are human beings. We are not tools, and even if we are tools, then we must be maintained. We must be taken care off. To transfer from Belize City to Caye Caulker, requires finance. You're speaking about going over the sea, to perform duties. It requires finance, and that officer has already invested. Legitimate expectation will tell you that this officer believes that when he was transferred from Belize City to Caye Caulker, his tour of duty would have been 2 years. So, having that officer coming back to Belize City with such short notice is really hampering his pocket. We're transferred without giving adequate notice; that is arbitrary to the Services Commission Regulations 2001, which the Commissioner of Police should apply when effecting transfers. So we, as the Association, are basically telling the Commissioner of Police, stick to the rules."
The Association believes proper delegation could have occured, if the Administration was truly concerned about addressing the issue.
Corporal Eldon Arzu
"I understand the Commissioner of Police is a very busy man, but also, there is effective delegation. We have other senior officers who work directly under the Commissioner of Police, and it's just for him to pass on that situation to deal with. We have the Personnel Desk; I am sure that there are competent officers there. So, it's just the Commissioner directing them and telling them, 'You deal with this situation for me, and then you get back in touch with the Association people. However, we have not received any response thereafter."
Sergeant Hendrick Williams - President Elect On Leave, Police Association
"In addition to what Corporal Arzu, the Commissioner comes with his staff officer, a ranking officer who goes through any documented to the Commissioner. And he, the Commissioner, can delegate tasks to the staff officer to make decisions on his behalf as well. So yes, we know he is a busy man, but there are things in place so that his office could run efficiently."
So could the Administration have transferred certain officers to deal with compromising situations? They said that, according to regulations, transfers are not to be used as punitive measures.
"Could it not be that certain of these officers' actions were in question, and in order for a proper investigation to take place, they will take them out of the situation? Isn't that a possible reason as to why certain officers transferred without any notice?"
Sergeant Hendrick Williams
"We are part of the serving commission. We are serving members of the department. We operate with the rule of evidence. Yes, if the police officer is in certain situations, there are rules that guide as to how to deal with police officers. You don't just transfer problems."
Association believes that they must remain in public view because it's too often that police officers are aggrieved by certain situations, but they suffer in silence.
Detective Sergeant Edlin Lorenzo - VP, Police Association
"It has been a subculture that we keep quiet, and the public just believes that everything is okay with us; everything is not okay with us. So, I'm telling the Police Administration, don't transfer any problem because if I am dealing drugs, then you must investigate and bring the evidence. You should then deal with me either out of the Department, or deal with me through disciplinary procedures. Don't just use it as a punitive measure, and i'll be there in limbo, and you treat me as though I am not a human. We have human right's as well."
"Can you confirm or deny that you believe that the administration isn't taking this concern from the Police Association seriously enough to deal with it in a timely fashion?"
Detective Sergeant Edlin Lorenzo
"I would say, 'Roger', on that because I have spoken to an aggrieved police officer, and a member from the Personnel Desk told him that it doesn't matter what the Association does, they've got to go. So, I'll say that this is a form of a hinderance, and a form of disrespect for the Association. It's the bureaucracy that is killing us. The Administration is right at Belmopan; downstairs, you have the personnel desk, and upstairs, is the Commissioner's office. That would only take 45 seconds to reach upstairs. The list could get there, and we could get a response because the officers have our cell numbers. But we are not getting any feedback. So, it seems as though they are taking us for a joke or a ride. But, what I can say right now on the media and to the general police populace, is that there are several aggrieved officers who are seeking legal redress. It's time to let the Administration step up and do the right thing, and to be held accountable for their actions. They need to be efficient and effective in carrying out the proper welfare of police officers because we are out there toiling. We are sacrificing our lives on the ground. And if a police officer is on patrol, and he isn't satisfied and happy, he will not stay focused. We want them to remain focused."
And it seems that Association has caught the attention of the officials at the Ministry level, and they are not happy that it has been brought to the public.
This evening, they sent out a press release saying quote,
"The Police Association is NOT a union, and the regulations governing the association strictly forbid any affiliation with unions or organizations whose purpose is to influence pay, pension or conditions of service of the Police Department."
IT adds that "the Ministry disapproves of the recent public posture adopted by the Association, because in a meeting on Monday they received assurances from the Minister that those matters would be adequately addressed."
The release ends by stressing that the decisions of the Commissioner of Police are properly delegated, and the only way it can be disputed is to appeal to the Belize Advisory Council.