Today Belize’s Ombudsman Lionel Arzu was in Orange Walk Town and we took the opportunity to speak with him on the responsibilities of his office and a few of the more important and outstanding statistics of the 2014 report from his office. That report was presented in the House of Representatives in March by the Prime Minister. Today the Ombudsman said, and it may not strike many as a surprise, that most of the complaints his office received in 2014 was against the police department. There were 220 registered complaints of which 116 were against the police, far more than the 99 individual cases filed against the police in 2013.

Screen_Shot_2015-05-13_at_8.04.41_PMLionel Arzu – Ombudsman

“Our Statistics shows us that from the previous year there were 211 complaints total, out of those 211, 99 were against the police department, this year is a total of 220 and out of that 116 is against the police, what is important to note here is that  the complaints that the police receives, that we don’t receive, what we have that is against the police we forward it to the police because they need to be aware for them to investigate so, there might be some issues with their stats and our stats bust that doesn’t mean what they present is wrong but is what we have, they have theirs and we have ours.”

Dalila Ical – Reporter

“Would you say as a man who works closely with the Belizean public that there are far more cases than reported of situations with police?”

Lionel Arzu – Ombudsman

“Yes and No because what happen is that at time people would hesitate to go report and what we have is based on what is presented to us and so it is possible that there are more as well it is possible that there are less because from what I am been noticing and watching the news and following up things, there seems to be lot more effort from the entire department for less police brutality it doesn’t mean that is down to zero but the way we are looking at it there is a decrease and we hope that what we are assuming is right.”

Arzu says that his office has established a working relationship with the Professional Standards Branch of the Police Department. It is of note that in an interview with the Commander of that branch, Noel Leal, late last week, he mentioned that the number of complaints received against the police by his office have been reducing. While these form the majority of complaints at the Ombudsman’s office, another department that is widely criticized by the public is the lands department. Arzu says that they also have established a working relationship with that department to ensure complaints they receive are addressed appropriately.

Lionel Arzu – Ombudsman

“A letter was written to the commissioner of Lands, or the CEO of Lands, informed Mrs. Gillett to follow through as the person who will represent us there in terms of making sure of what is complained she will follow that through and then get back to us with the respond from the respective authority in her ministry, we have complains from the judiciary, meaning the magistrate, family court  but we cannot investigate the proceeding of this courts, but there is administrative issues we can look at that or we can refer the cases to competent authority meaning legally attorney or write the Chief Magistrate on magistrate issue or if it is a Supreme Court then the Chief Justice.”

Of the reports filed against the police, Arzu says a very small percentage have actually come to closure. He adds that he continues to work with the Professional Standards Branch of the Police Department to close cases, some dating back to 2009.

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