Belize: The duplicity in law enforcement

...discharging a firearm, be it licensed or unlicensed, in public is an offense under the Firearms Act that is punishable with imprisonment. The exception being in time of need like self defense and even then police must investigate and during said investigation take away the firearm from the accused.

I want to state this clearly so no one misunderstands my point because what I want to illustrate is the double standard in law enforcement that caused the ever widening gap between the “big man” vs “small man” that still fuels crime and violence. I hope no one takes out of context what I seek to convey.

Firstly let me categorically state for the record that I abhor violence and would not advocate it against any person, group or entity even when they have opted to be violent. I further denounce gun violence and the failure of our country to stop the illegal proliferation of guns into our neighborhoods and onto our streets.

Secondly, let me also categorically state that discharging a firearm, be it licensed or unlicensed, in public is an offense under the Firearms Act that is punishable with imprisonment. The exception being in time of need like self defense and even then police must investigate and during said investigation take away the firearm from the accused.

Now having said that do take time out to read the news story I attached because I want to operate on facts and not fiction.

The so-call 21 gun salute fired in public, in broad daylight during the funeral procession of a so- call gang leader is totally wrong and basis for criminal charges and with the right police file preparation it should result in a conviction. How and when police should have reacted given the charged up atmosphere is another issue for debate. So I will not deal with that here, but suffice to say that the police department was and is still lawfully bound to pursue an investigation into this matter and seek to apprehend the shooter and if possible recover the weapon. That is the lawful thing to do and must still be done. To do otherwise would send the wrong message and would further galvanize this gun culture seemingly fully accepted in these marginalized communities.

This role of the police should have been equally stand true on 4th November, 2015 when no other than a UDP supporter of John Saldivar got trigger happy and proceeded to fired his licensed firearm in public in belmopan as the results showed that Saldivar won in honour of the victory of his “general”. When police tried to do their job then and apprehend the shooter, they were emasculated of their power, when no other than Saldivar told police to “back off”. PM Dean Barrow even defended Saldivar’s action at his victory press conference and proceeded to appoint Saldivar Minister of National Security and said that at the time of the incident Saldivar was just a civilian. Hmmmm imagine if he can exert such power over police as just a civilian, how much more power he can exert now over them as their boss and head honcho!

But do the right thinking minded readers see the duplicity? I opine that in both instances the law was broken but let’s analyze the response and the players and the context!

To date that UDP supporter whose name was not officially released and whose gun license was never taken away has yet to be detained for questioning and thus an arrest never took place.

Now juxtapose that incident to this one on Sunday 25th March, 2018, where likewise the supporter of a “leader” fired several shots in public and with a crowd gathered in honour of their leader.

In both instances the firing was used as a sign of “respect” or a sign of honour accorded to the “big man”. The only difference is one is a political leader and the other a gang leaders…. some will say no big difference! Now tell me if by examples our leadership, especially our minister of police, backed by our very own prime minister, by conduct has not only accepted and promoted this culture of gun violence, but had also used double standards in dealing with it. Action speaks louder than words!

Saldivar became minister responsible for police after that election victory and never bothered to ensure his friend and supporter was equally and rightly treated with the full force of the law.

The excuse: per the PM at the then press conference he said Saldivar explained he was concerned the crowd reaction and retaliation had the gunman been taken to police then so he intervened. Fine, that was then, but what about the days following when the police should have dealt with the gunman away from the potential emotional reaction of the crowd? Oops! But how could we forget by then Saldivar was the boss of the very police he told to back down.

Put that same logic to yesterday’s event and understand why I too say timing was everything. I know police must still find that gunman at the funeral procession and deal with him to the full extent of the law. But precedent and protocol having been established on the night of 4th November, 2015 police should have followed suit and waited until the crowd or mob-mentality would not be activated. After all they have the video and countless eyewitness.

Sadly, the Amandala did an interview with Howell Gillette who is now one of the same top cop for Saldivar and he explained away and justified the police’s lack of subsequent arrest of Saldivar’s supporter Now those same words will come back to bite him in this case.

I rest my case my lords! Keep justice blind!

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