Tonight, the Police department is in possession of a million dollars’ worth of equipment and motorcycles, courtesy Taiwan.
The island nation has been consistently kind to it allies, like Belize, who support its independence. And while it’s impolite to refer to dollar diplomacy, facts are, they need support on the world stage, and Belize need financial support right here at home.
So, the generous aid packages keep coming, and, sure as the sun rises in the east, you’ll hear Belize put in a plug for Taiwan at the ongoing UN General Assembly.
Today, those close diplomatic ties resulted in a donation of equipment to the police department.
7News was there when the police got to take ownership of its newest toys, and Daniel Ortiz has that story:
105 shiny new motorbikes, 210 new motorcycle helmets, a number of new police radios, 200 police body-cameras, drones, new pieces of computer equipment, and an assortment of other electronics all make up a part of the latest 1 million-dollar donation that the Police Department has received from the Taiwanese Government.
Today, it was all handed over to the top police brass, who had many words of gratitude for yet another generous donation from the government and people of Taiwan.
Allen Whylie - Commissioner of Police
"Today’s event is another demonstration of the great relationship, the great partnership, as well as the unwavering support and commitment between the Republic of China/Taiwan and Belize in the area of development assistance and cooperation."
Hon. Elodio Aragon Jr. - Minister of State/Police
"I do believe that we have come a long way in terms of equipment, and yes, there is always a need for more, but today, we can see that partnership paying off. I mean, we get over a hundred cycles."
"One hundred and five Lifan motorcycles, 210 motorcycle helmets, 200 body worn cameras, 2 celebrite machines, a rhisograph machine, drones, computers, a laptop computer, a hundred handheld radios. In addition to these equipment on display here, the department will also be receiving, very shortly, 2,500 handcuffs and pouches, 60 body armour ballistic vests, as well as 30 alcoblow handheld breath alcohol testers, which have been ordered, and they are on their way."
And according to the police commissioner, these 105 motorbikes will be distributed countrywide to the different police formations on a needs basis.
"A motorcycle will be assigned to every police substation that is function across this country. In addition to that, a number of motorcycles will also be assigned to the district head stations in every district. The officer commanding those formations will be responsible for the best utilization of those motorcycles. So, if he sees that those motorcycles should be placed in a relief, then he will do that. If it's for traffic purposes, then he will do that. So, we have not restricted him in terms where he can assign those cycles because he is on the ground, and he knows best his needs. We are also going to give a number of motorcycles to prosecution in Belize City, as well as the prosecution in every district, also. We're also going to assign 4 motorcycles to the traffic section here in Belize City to help with traffic enforcement and traffic management in the Belize City area."
Another interesting group of items inside this donation is the 200 police body cameras. They will go directly to the elite police units, such as the GSU. The hope is that an unbiased account will be readily available for all interactions between the officers of these elite units and civilians. In the event of police misbehaviour, or civilian misconduct, video footage should be able to clearly show who is right, and who is wrong.
"These equipment, and in particular introduction and utilization of body worn cameras in particular by the operational units will help the department to enhance accountability and deepen transparency. It will serve as an independent medium or a check and balance in the event complaints are made of unprofessional behaviour, by our police officers."
Hon. Elodio Aragon Jr.
"Our hope and vision is that as we progress with time, a lot - or if not all - of our police officers will eventually, in the future, have body cameras."
"We are preparing standard operating procedures, and those procedures will include the fact that once those body cameras have been signed out and assigned to an officer on duty, he will be prohibited from turning those body cameras off. If he turns them off, then that will be a breech against discipline, and then, we will address those issues. But, we believe that the body cameras will, as I said, ensure greater accountability and transparency because we do know that there are some officers who sometimes are overzealous. We also know that there are members of the public who obstructs and surrounds the police whenever they are going about their legitimate business. We've also had occasions where people have made false complaints against police. So, it will work as a check and balance to ensure that my officers are behaving professionally, and executing their duties properly, and it will also ensure that the public who we are serving, are also abiding by the laws."
The 1-million dollar donation was also used to purchase breathalyser tests which the department will be deploying for more effective policing of the country’s roads. Those tests have been ordered, and should arrive soon.
"The alcoblow testermeter is not something new to the department. We had acquired several of those in the times of Commissioner Zetina. We had used those. That is a pre-test. Drivers will not be under an obligation to use it. But even in terms of using that, it's just to give an indicator in terms of whether or not the individual has been drinking and the levels. It will not stop the officer, if he suspects that person to be so under the influence, to request a urine or blood specimen. And again, if those persons refuse, then it is an automatic charge. But, this is a tool that we believe can reduce incidents and the need to take people to be tested because it will give a clear indication prior."
So, all in all, much needed equipment, and the police department couldn’t say thanks enough. That gratitude for the donation was well-received by the Taiwanese Ambassador who demonstrated a commitment to immerse himself in Belizean culture, while he is here.
H. E. Charles K. Y. Liu - Taiwanese Ambassador to Belize
"I just want to say. You are my sisters. You are my brothers. All of us are one."
Police Commissioner Allen Whylie credits Foreign Affairs Minister Wilfred Elrington for the major role he played in seeking out approval of this donation from the Taiwanese diplomats. Back when Elrington was the Minister in charge of police, he and Commissioner Whylie came up with a checklist of items the department needed. He then approached the Taiwanese government officials to make the request for assistance on behalf of the Department, which is how today’s donation became a reality.