New Joint Operation Center for Better Law Enforcement Print E-mail
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Thursday, 12 December 2013 00:00

On Monday,December 9, Belize’s Law Enforcement Agencies opened a chapter of unprecedented interdepartmental cooperation with the official opening of the Joint Operation Center. The JOC is an initiative started 2 years ago under the BDF Command of Retiring Brigadier General Dario Tapia. It also represents the close ties that Belize shares with Canada and the United States Government.

The JOC is a military facility which is housed on the BDF’s Price Barrack Compound, but the officers who make up the staff come from the Belize Defence Force, the Belize Police Department, the Belize Coast Guard, Customs and Immigration. This operation, while it draws on the resources and man-power of the 5 law enforcement agencies, will be completely autonomous of them.

The main purpose is to take an integrated and collaborative approach to security and battling crime. Theoretically, the JOC will be able to pool all intelligence from the 5 agencies, plan missions of high priority, and execute using a team of the elite officers from the entire security ministry. Each agency will have a corresponding liaison officer, who will be able to contact the different commanders to get clearance to use whatever resource is necessary.

The JOC will be run by Major Charlton Roches, the Director who will run it for the first 2 years. He will be responsible for all operations coming out of the new outfit. The officers from the different agencies will form a new team, which will be intelligence-based. The intelligence gathered will be collated, and the enforcement arm of the JOC, called the Joint Enforcement Team, will be activated, and depending on the nature of the mission, the team will mobilize either by land or by sea.

Missions which materialize from the JOC will have the highest level of clearances, and the secrecy surrounding their execution is such that not even the commanders of the different agencies may learn of or influence them. It is completely autonomous, and its command is totally under Major Roches, who has served in the BDF in the last 3 years as the Force’s Operation’s Office. The officers chosen will be strictly vetted to ensure that the information that the JOC handles does not leave the facility.

The Joint Operation Center has an estimated cost of 3 million dollars. It is expected to be completely operational in January. It was developed to be able to respond better to combat transnational criminal organizations, which makes use of Belize as a corridor for their illicit trafficking. The long term plan is that it will be at some point, also able to take on humanitarian missions, such as search and rescue and rapid response to natural disasters.

The potential applications are innovative. For example, a department such as Fisheries, which has difficulties to combat illegal fishing, could be integrated to plan an effective response to known problem areas, based on proper intelligence.