San Pedro Head of Police addresses traffic offense controversy and alleged police extortion
Over the past few weeks, several islanders have complained about the questionable behavior of police when stopped during late-night checkpoints. A number of residents claim they were locked up over night, threatened, and in some cases beaten when found without a driver’s license in their possession. Others allege that police officers have tried to extort drivers, informing them that if a fee is paid, they can avoid further troubles with the law. The officer in Charge of the Coastal Executive Unit (Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker) Superintendent Reymundo Reyes weighed in on the reported incidents, stating that he has begun to address the allegations within his personnel. He further encourages residents to not allow any law enforcer officer to violate their rights and to report any wrongdoings immediately.
Reyes explained the right procedures when dealing with someone without a driver’s license. According to him, if the person does not have a driver’s license at all, he or she will be charged for driving without owning a valid Belizean driver’s license. The person will be brought to the station, where he or she will be detained for a couple of hours while the paperwork on the charge is done. Reyes said that after this process, the person should be released, not locked up for the night. He said that the same procedure applies to someone whose license has expired.
The Commander of the island’s police department also mentioned that he is aware that traffic offenders have been locked up for the night, and that there have been attempts at extortion. On the extortion side, Reyes believes that the community should work along with the police. He encourages that when a police officer stops someone at a checkpoint and tries to extort them, it should not be tolerated. “They should bring it to the attention of the officer that it is wrong, and once I can get evidence of the act, police officers will be arrested and charged,” he said. He also added that such behaviors should be reported immediately and that no one should feel intimidated as the police are here to serve the community.
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