Police Association overstep Their Limitations Print E-mail
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Thursday, 26 July 2012 00:00

Eldon Arzu and Edlin LorenzoPolice Corporal Eldon Arzu, the president of the Police Association and Sergeant Edlin Lorenzo, Vice President of the Association, have been put on interdiction following inflammatory remarks they have been making on radio and television against the Commissioner of Police and the Ministry of National Security.  Arzu has been charged for being disrespectful to a superior officer while Lorenzo was charged for disobeying a lawful command. This is in addition to a decision by the Commissioner of Police to discontinue the support that his office has been giving to the Police Association. The decision came after numerous media appearances by the executive of the Association in various media outlets in which they made disparaging remarks against the COMPOL. Those remarks were done after the Association attempted to reverse the transfer of officers from one formation to another.

While the Association was formed to look after the interests of the police officers, in its zeal to do so, the association has overstepped its limitations.

In the Police Act which governs the conduct of police officers, there are provisions for a Police Association. The act reads as follows:

“4.(1) For the purpose of enabling the members of the Department to consider and bring to the notice of the Commissioner and the Government all the matters affecting their welfare and efficiency, other than questions of discipline and promotion affecting individuals, there may be established, in accordance with such rules as the Commissioner may, with the approval of the Public Services Commission, make, an organisation to be called the Police Association, which shall be conducted as provided in those rules.

(2) The Police Association shall be entirely independent of and unassociated with any body or person outside the police service.

(3) Subject to subsections (1) and (2), it shall not be lawful for a member of the Department to become a member of any trade union, or any association having for its objects, or one of its objects, to control or influence the pay, pensions, or conditions of service of the Police Department, and any member of the Department who contravenes this provision shall be disqualified from continuing to be a member of the Department, and, if any member of the Department continues to act as such after becoming so disqualified, he shall forfeit all pension rights and be disqualified from being thereafter employed in the Department, but where a man was a member of a trade union before becoming a constable, he may, with the consent of the Commissioner, continue to be a member of that union during the time of his service in the Department.

(4) If any question arises whether any body is a trade union or an association to which subsection (3) applies, it shall be determined by a magistrate.

Further to the Police Act, which is the law that governs the police department and the Provisions for the Police Association, the Constitution under section 22(2) notes that (2) In relation to any person who is a member of a disciplined force of Belize, nothing contained in or done under the authority of the disciplinary law of that force shall be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of any of the provisions of this Part other than sections 4, 7 and 8 of this Constitution.”

Despite restrictions that the Association have, the organization has been operating like a lobby group which is not its mandate. The Act is specific in that the Association can “bring to the notice of the commissioner and government” and not be an advocating force. Over the past couple of weeks that, however, is what the Association has been doing with media appearances and the Commissioner is not looking too kindly on the actions of the Association since he has been acting in good faith and has publicly stated that the transfer of officers which the Association was advocating against would be reversed. Still, the association kept on with their media appearances, in contravention to police policy and now the Commissioner has taken away the privileges of the Association and interdicted the President and Vice-President.

It should be noted that outside of presenting concerns to the Commissioner and to the government, the Association should not operate as it is now operating. The police act also restricts officers from joining unions. That restriction is specifically designed so that the security force is not compromised in times of unrest when the security forces are forbidden to go on strike.