Last night we told you about the petition being circulated in the police department to block the new Commissioner form going back to 8 hour shifts for Eastern Division cops. For a few years now, these officers have been on 12 hour shifts - which they have gotten to prefer because after four days of work, they get four days off.

The 8 hour shift doesn't give them that luxury - this the opposition to bringing it back. Well, Compol Chester wasn't going to cave to a petition - and, today, he met with Eastern division officers and told them he's decided to go ahead with the 8 hour shifts. His Deputy Edward Broaster told us why. We have the audio portion of his interview laying down the law:...

Edward Broaster, Deputy Commissioner of Police
"Was just a group of police officers who preferred the 12 hours over the 8 hours. But the decision has been made and we will be reverting back to the 8 hours shift system. They outlined the pros and the cons as it pertains to the 12 hours compared to the 8 hours - where they would have more family time - more time to do shopping and so forth and the Commissioner refuted those pros and indicated where the pros that they were outlining are not factual."

"When will the 8-hour shift system become effective?"

Edward Broaster
"As soon as we worked out the kinks, I believe that the commissioner will be directing the commander for the regional eastern division to put it into effect probably by next week. They thought that they would have been working 7 days and getting 2 days off, but in actual fact they will be working 5 days and getting 2 days off."

Police Association Supports Reversion to 8 Hours

The police would also provide transportation to those officers living in the West so that they don't have to hitchhike. Still, it's not a popular move - after all, those 4 days off cane be pretty sweet! But, Compol Williams didn't just have to push it through - he got support from the police themselves. In a remarkable turn, by this afternoon, after meetings where Williams explained his reasoning for changing the shift system, the Police Association, which comprises of the roughly 2000 cops between the ranks of Constable and Sergeant, spoke to the media about why they support the change.

Cpl. Eldon Arzu - President, Belize Police Association
"The association's position is straightforward. As the commissioner of Police, by virtue of the constitutions he does have the authority to make changes as it related to the shift system. And so the police officers have long been suffering, right, for working those long hours, those 12 hours duties whereby the department has seen sometimes sleeping whilst on tour of duty. Many of them have fallen ill etc. So today the meeting today was just to speak face to face with the members of the department. To hear from them about this implementation of this new shift system which is the 8 hours shift system."

"But speaking to some of the members within the police department they're saying that they are not in agreement with the change in shift."

Cpl. Eldon Arzu - President, Belize Police Association
"These officers, in my view, were no in agreement because information was just being circulated without all the necessary facts. And so the Commissioner today had this meeting where we highlighted to this officers how he will assist them. Particularly in regards to those guys who travel from up north. One of their contentions was that the time that they would come off, which is like 11 pm in the night, buses are not travelling from Belize City to Corozal and so they were concerned about travelling back home whist off duty. The Commissioner himself has promises these officers that arrangements will be made for a bus to transport them whilst coming off duty at that time, and those who are on duty will also have access to the bus from Corozal to Belize. Up West he states that there will be a van, right, which will be transporting our officers from Belize to the West. "

"The Police Association's position is that 1) the Commissioner of Police has all authority to change the system and 20 we're more focused on looking at the attrition rate of officers within the police department. We're looking at the health aspect of working those long hour shifts, right, and so we do believe that the implementation of the 8 hour system is best for the organization."

Arzu estimates that about 75% of police officers completely support the 8 hour shift system.

Channel 7