Three senior officers of the BPD placed on administrative leave

Alden Dawson Edlin Lorenzo and Daniel Arzu

Following events at the Port of Belize Ltd. (PBL) where riot and militant police force was used against orders of the Commissioner of Police (COMPOL), three senior officers of the Belize Police Department (BPD) have been placed on administrative leave. On Wednesday, July 22, regular uniformed officers were at the Port to ensure that protestors maintained peace but all this changed when members of the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU) descended on the scene and the Riot Act was read. This resulted in the injury of several protestors and civilians, at least seven persons total, after tear gas was sprayed and rubber bullets were fired. Later, that same day, Minister of Police, Hon. Sen. Michael Peyrefitte and COMPOL Chester Williams advised the media that they were working to determine what caused the orders not to be followed, and that someone would have to be held responsible.
Staying true to their word, just two days later, the announcement was made that three senior officers of the BPD have been placed on administrative leave. Eastern Division Regional Commander Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Alden Dawson; GSU Commander Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Edlin Lorenzo; and Region One Commander Senior Superintendent (O.C. Sr. Spt.) Daniel Arzu were all placed on five-days leave and COMPOL Williams says that he will make a written suggestion to Rt. Col. George Lovell, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in the Ministry of National Security for a 60-day suspension in the first instance. During this time, further investigations into the matter will be carried out and if needs be, the COMPOL will recommend for an additional 30 days. In the interim, ACP Dawson has been replaced by ACP Dr. Richard Rosado; Sr. Spt. Roy Joseph will replace ASP Lorenzo; and Sr. Spt. Arzu will be replaced by Spt. Reymundo Reyes. These replacements take effect immediately.
There are currently two separate ongoing investigations into this matter to determine what went wrong. These will determine if there was an administrative breach and the culpability, if any, for the actions of the lower ranking uniformed officers. These are being carried out by Deputy Commissioner of Police Dezerie Philips-Magdaleno and Spt. Dwayne Sutherland of the Professional Standards Branch (PSB). So far, Deputy Commissioner Philips-Magdaleno has been able to determine that ACP Dawson “failed to transmit” the directive given to him by the COMPOL, which resulted in Wednesday’s actions. Sr. Spt. Arzu, who was the ground commander at the time, did not receive the information that the protesters were to be left alone so long as they were acting peacefully. COMPOL Williams says that Sr. Spt. Arzu does bear fault, regardless, since a riot team cannot be deployed without consulting the COMPOL. Furthermore, the GSU had been deployed to relieve the uniformed police officers and because they were unable to receive the directive from the COMPOL that no riot or other gear were to be used, that was done. ASP Lorenzo received the directive that the crowd on the ground needed to be removed, and that is what he did. While the COMPOL understands that ASP Lorenzo was simply acting on the directive given to him by his superior, ASP Lorenzo holds responsibility since he has to ensure that whatever directive he follows is lawful.
In this matter, seven civilians have visited the PSB and claimed to have been injured on Wednesday. Of those seven, two have received medico legal forms and returned with them which have classified their injuries as “harm”. They have made formal complaints in this matter and the remaining persons are expected to do so as well.