Tonight, the police department is dealing with another incident of police abuse that was caught on camera. The incident took place last Friday at Barry Bowen Municipal Airport in Belize City and involved two officers and a civilian. The video was posted to social media over the weekend and has since sparked public outrage, with many including the police department condemning the officers’ actions. Journalist Vejea Alvarez spoke to the men at the center of the ordeal. Here is that story.
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM: This amateur recording captures the moment Shamar Foster, a 19-year-old tour guide in training, was assaulted by a police officer on Friday night outside Maya Island Air. Footage shows Foster being searched by an officer who uses obscene language and threatens to arrest him on trumped up charges of assaulting a cop. According to the victim, the incident took place after he was approached by a mobile police patrolling the area.
Shamar Foster, tourist guide in training: “I was at Maya Air with a few of our guests minding my own business when this police mobile came in. So they entered. They parked the mobile. Two officers got out, one a man and the other a woman. The male policeman then approached me and asked for a search. I then asked him “What are you looking for?” “Who sent you?” “Why are you looking for me? He then responded and said I should never, ever question law enforcement, just stand up and let me search you. So I put my hand up but at the same time I was filming him so he boxed after my hand and I backed up a bit and that’s when he started to get aggressive. He held his gun and asked me if I wanted this to get mean and then after that he grabbed me in my shirt and said he was taking me to the station and he would charge me of assaulting a police officer. It was then that the spectator came out and intervened.
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM: This spectator, Eric Andrews, is Foster’s employer and a relative who recorded the entire ordeal. Andrew’s says the incident was unjustified and didn’t need to escalate the way it did and according to him the officer in question also reeked of alcohol.
Eric Andrews, tour guide: “When the policeman got into this rage with him, myself and all the workers there at Maya Island Air, including these tourists, everyone was shocked, like what was going on? What was going on And I was scared mine I was wondering if it was gonna be another Laddie you know We got the person that was supposed to protect us attacking us and I’m glad the camera was there I quickly became a part of that recording because this policeman wasn’t normal. This guy was angry and in his shouting, I mean, I could smell the stench of alcohol coming out of his breath, so it’s obvious he was under the influence of something.
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM: Andrews says the moment the officer began to clutch his gun and ask Foster if he wanted things to go wrong made him wonder if Shamar would have suffered the same fate as 14-year-old Laddie Gillett. who was killed by the police last year.
Eric Andrews, tour guide“In the process of what was unfolding, I was wondering if this was another Laddie? Is it another young person who is being hurt by the hands of these policemen who should be protecting them? I saw it for no reason. I just wish. I just wish the police department that I have so much respect for, I hope the department will finally do something about this officer. Let’s give him an example. The video that was captured clearly shows what happened there on the airstrip in front of the people this guy served. So I think and I hope, I hope the police can really deal with this officer.
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM: And the police will ensure that the officer who assaulted Foster is dealt with quickly. NEWT. Fitzroy Yearwood has spoken on the subject.
NEWT. Fitzroy Yearwood, Public Relations Officer, Belize Police Department: “I have seen the video about six times. It was sent to me by friends, of course. It is very unfortunate that our officers acted in such an unprofessional manner and I can assure the general public that our Police Commissioner and our Minister of Police do not condone such behavior. Well, the Commissioner has instructed the Professional Standards Branch and I will inform you of the Professional Standards Branch’s decision against these officers.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM: Overall, Foster says he’s still shocked why the officer behaved so belligerently when he was simply trying to do his job.
Shamar Foster, tourist guide in training: “I feel very bad. Even the reason I asked why he was looking for me is because I was with my guests. I can’t let this policeman come and search me in front of my guests. What is -would do that to me, wouldn’t it, you know, that looks really bad for the Belize Police Department. This happened in front of tourists. This takes a black eye out the tourism industry in Belize and I just want justice done. I want something done.
Vejea Alvarez, Love FM: Home Secretary Kareem Musa and Opposition Leader Moses “Shyne” Barrow condemned the officers’ actions in this latest incident. Reporting for Love News, I’m Vejea Alvarez.