In my perspective – What can we learn from the Dean St. massacre?
Sunday, January 20, 2013, 17:17
by Rayford Young
Growing up in and attending school in Corozal was a joy indeed. I had a great childhood and enjoyed my youth in Corozal - nothing but good memories. One of those memorable events was just about every evening after school; many of the boys from my school would walk to the police station and play volleyball. The station had a volleyball court and some of the police officers would even join us. Rubbing shoulders with the Rev. Makey, pastor of the Corozal Methodist School that I attended, was an awesome experience I remember to this day.
Back in those days policing was a respectable occupation. The police officers I got to know in Corozal were professional and trustworthy. These men carried themselves with dignity and respect and the community respected them. I remember the uniforms were clean and ironed. They had so much starch in them the crest was sharp as a razor blade. They shaved daily with hair combed and in place. I believe they had to pass an inspection before they could go on duty for that day. That’s the way it was. They did this because they had to earn the respect of the community they were entrusted to, and they did. You didn’t hear of police officers running drugs and involved in crime back then, for the shame they would bring on the police force if anyone did anything like that.
Today as I watch the police officers rolling down Central American Blvd in Belize City in the back of an old beaten up pickup truck, packed like sardines and guns blazing, it is nothing but a disgrace to the people of this country. They seem like a rag tag team that cannot shoot straight. Frankly, they remind me of Barnie Fifer on the old Andy Griffin TV series. How can the public have any confidence in a police force that doesn’t even have the decency to wear a clean uniform? They look tired. Some look frightened. Others just look like they’re on something. Let me be clear, not all police officers are like this. There are many fine, dedicated officers serving the public with dignity and respect. But there are those that should not be trusted with people’s lives in their hands. They lack training and self discipline.
On Monday January 7, 2013 at what many have called one of the most gruesome and horrific murders the city has ever seen, we witnessed our police department in action and it was nothing to cheer about. We saw an inept unprofessional untrained police force that seemed confused, unsure of what to do or how to close off a crime scene. There were lots of people from the neighborhood standing around, some shouting at the police. One lady even got into an argument with one of the officers. The crowd blamed the GSU (Gang Suppression Unit) for the murders. One lady said if it was her son that was murdered she would shoot one of the officers there on the spot. School kids and mothers with their young babies were walking around at the scene. In the apartment building where these murders took place, police and investigative officers were walking in the blood and contaminating the crime scene. Then the media was allowed in the room and they too walked all over the crime scene. The media was so happy that they had these pictures of blood all over the apartment. This is what makes great television, blood and more blood. I guess no one thought about preserving the scene for forensic testing. I thought it was normal police practice that you seal off the streets and allow absolutely no one in a crime scene until the forensic investigation was complete.
Then we saw them bring down the dead men in blood-soaked sheets and threw them in the back of a pickup truck and drove off to the morgue. I don’t know who these men are but I’m sure they were somebody’s son, sister, brother, or maybe a father. Don’t they deserve some dignity rather than their loved ones see them thrown in the back of a pickup truck? Are we so backward we don’t even have a van to transport the dead?
Later that day the Prime Minister the Honorable Dean Barrow held a press conference and as usual we got slick words from him, evading the questions and coming up with clever answers. The PM was asked if the GSU had anything to do with these murders. You would think a yes or no would be the answer. Instead he said something to the effect that the GSU doesn’t do things like this. The head of the GSU also gave this kind of an answer. We also learned from the PM that the gangs were transported to Belmopan and met with him and he was convinced there would not be any retaliation. We also learned that after the gang members met with him, they were escorted out of the city to an undisclosed location - that’s why he was certain there would be any retaliation.
I wonder how many citizens of Belize could drive to the PM office and meet with him? Not many I’m certain. But gang members seem to have access to the PM. How can the PM of this country sit down with criminals and negotiate with them? Whose side is he on? I thought he was elected to serve the people of this country, not to sit down with criminals and give them money and safe passage. Even at his press conference he seemed to be representing the criminals rather than the people. Seems to me once you sit down with these thugs all your moral authority is lost. They might even have the upper hand as they can hold you hostage. If you don’t give them what they want they will threaten to kill innocent citizens. How does a PM get himself in such a terrible situation - this man that claims he’s the smartest and most educated person in Belize. That old statement comes to mind, when you sleep with dogs you catch their fleas.
What can we learn from this awful massacre? Invest in training our police officers so they don’t look foolish, shooting off their guns in the air trying to control the crowd; invest in a modern forensic lab instead of new SUV’s for ministers. Surround yourself with mature, educated people that will give you sound advice. Don’t negotiate with criminals. Giving gang members a weekly pay check is dumb. Even worse is when you don’t know you’re dumb and need help. Instead you think you know it all and keep making the same mistakes over and over. Now that’s dumb.
Rayford Young is a Belizean-American, who currently lives in Michigan, U.S.A. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
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