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Commentary: If government removes soldiers from the streets of Belize City, it better have a backup plan
Published on February 22, 2014 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Wellington C. Ramos

It is never a good situation for a country when the government decides to deploy soldiers on the streets to perform police duties for which they were not trained. Why? Because soldiers are not trained to perform police duties, only the police. However, due to the increase in crime over the years, the PUP and UDP governments in Belize had no choice but to take that action.

Born in Dangriga Town, the cultural capital of Belize, Wellington Ramos has BAs in Political Science and History from Hunter College, NY, and an MA in Urban Studies from Long Island University. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science and History
Back in the 1960s, when the UBAD was creating havoc in Belize City, the PUP government under the leadership of Minister Carl L. Rogers, better known as "Lindy Rogers", formed the Police Special Force, which was known as PSF. At that time, our country of Belize had no army but had a volunteer force called the British Honduras Volunteer Guards (BHVG). They attended drills during the week in their respective districts and attended camp in Mountain Pine Ridge once a year to do military training. The original PSF enlistees had to do one year of training, which included six months of police duties and six months of military training. That was later broken down to about three months of each.

Around 1977, the government of Belize was encouraged by the British government to form an army, which is now known as the Belize Defence Force (BDF). The colonel who was responsible to see this army come to full fruition was Colonel Brian Ayers from the British Paratroop Regiment. This army was to be made of members of the PSF and the BHVG. The people who were in these two organizations were given the option to join. Many of the PSF personnel refused and ended up enlisting in the Belize Police Force.

However many of the BHVG soldiers, who were unemployed and saw an opportunity for themselves to become full time soldiers, embraced this option immediately. The person who the PUP government was grooming to become the first commander of the Belize Defence Force was Thomas Greenwood, who later became the colonel. Many of the PSF personnel who had extensive military training overseas became angry with this decision because Greenwood was always a part time soldier while they were full time soldiers. Some opted to leave to join a new squad that was called Tactical Force, which is similar to what we call Dragon Squad today.

The government should invest more money on expanding the Dragon Squad and have a division in each district to carry out tactical military operations. The crime situation in the entire world is getting more dangerous. The crimes are also sophisticated and the regular police will not be able to deal with some of these new crimes that they will have to encounter.

I do not know what type of training the members of the Dragon Squad go through but I heard that it is similar to the training that the PSF personnel went through back in the old days. If that is the case then the GSU should be given a different name because they will not only deal with gangs but all type of criminals.

I hope that members of our government contemplate wisely on this decision to avoid going back to the days when our citizens were afraid to walk our streets.
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Abdulmajeed Nunez:

Good history but, my experience on the ground is that they have already begun to implement their back up plan which is displacing Belizeans. Their band aid approach for Belize City is to push the criminal elements out of Belize city in the name of tourism and infrastructural development.

The plan needs to include opening up this segregated country and create industries, improving the National transportation system and perhaps invest in a either a road from Dangriga straight to Belize City or nationalizing the Public transportation system and in the long term building a railway system for Belize. We cannot be talking economic independence with a segregationist mindset. If this is not done then the crime and violence will continue.

If people have jobs and are feeding themselves and their families, crime will naturally go down as we have seen in the previous months. It had nothing and to do with soldiers on the street. We take criminals likely. They have their intelligence too and tactic too. In fact they have quite a few officers and politicians in their pockets.

Paco Smith:

Having BDF soldiers on the streets of Belize is not the way to continue matters.

The government must deploy the BDF to our BORDER, in order to carry-out one of their most fundamental responsibilities. As for the streets of Belize City, if the political element would allow the professional peace officers to do their jobs, it would go a long way toward normalising matters.

In effect, the BDF are out of their element because I am unaware of any statute under which they have been provided with powers of engagement and/or arrest.

As with most things in Belize, if the politicians would allow the professionals to do their jobs, it would bode well for the nation's development.

Lots of funds, man-hours and training have gone into outfitting various elements within the Belize Police Department to do their jobs and its high time they handle domestic policing, exclusively meanwhile their well-prepared military counterparts, do what must be done to secure our BORDER.


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