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Belize The Belize National Police
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    Police headquarters, Belmopan
    Courtesy Steven R. Harper


    Local police headquarters, Belize City
    Courtesy Steven R. Harper

    The Belize National Police is descended from the British Honduras Constabulary, which was established in 1886. Constabulary personnel initially numbered 141 and were recruited in Barbados because local men showed no interest in enlisting. The government assigned the early police the task of preserving law and order in the colony. The Constabulary was at first a paramilitary force, but in 1902, it was made into a civil police force.

    The constabulary was reorganized after World War I, when soldiers returning from service abroad (as well as several Barbadians and Jamaicans) joined the force. The force was reorganized again in 1957, when its first commissioner of police instituted modernizing reforms that resulted in the force's present form. During the colonial period, expatriate officers filled all senior posts in the police. But with self-government and then independence, more Belizeans assumed positions of authority. The official name of the force was changed to the Belize National Police in 1973, and by the early 1990s, the commissioner and all senior police officers were Belizeans.

    As of 1991, the force, which was part of the Ministry of Home Affairs, was the sole organization responsible for policing the country and for managing regular immigration matters. A commissioner of police headed the force. The governor general appointed the commissioner with the concurrence of the prime minister after consultation with the leader of the opposition. The commissioner exercised operational and disciplinary control over the police force.

    The police force had an authorized strength of approximately 500, a ratio of about three police to every 1,000 inhabitants. Police operations were divided into three territorial divisions: Eastern, which included Belmopan and Belize City; Central; and Western. The force had a small maritime element that operated six shallow-draft motorboats capable of patrolling coastal waters frequented by smugglers.

    The force was also divided into three operational branches: General Duties, Crime Investigation, and Tactical Service. The Tactical Service, formed in 1978, assumed the nonmilitary responsibilities of its predecessor, the Police Special Force, which was incorporated into the BDF.

    The police underwent training at the Police Training School in Belmopan. In sixteen-week programs, recruits studied general police duties and procedures, criminal law, evidence, traffic management, and firearms. Senior police officers attended a ten-week command course run by the British police in Britain. There were a small number of women police in the force, and the first woman was promoted to the rank of inspector in 1989. All personnel were subject to transfer anywhere in the country.

    Police performed their regular duties unarmed, although arms were issued for special duties or in cases of extreme necessity.

    Officers' uniforms resembled those of British police forces. Sergeants and lower ranks wore khaki shirts, blue serge trousers with a green seam on both sides, and dark blue peaked caps. Some police investigators were not required to wear uniforms.

    During the 1980s, the large increase in drug trafficking greatly challenged the police. Unfortunately, some personnel proved vulnerable to corruption by traffickers, and public confidence in the police suffered from charges of official collusion in the drug trade. Public perceptions of the police also suffered from charges that police sometimes resorted to unnecessary force in their efforts to deal with escalating violent crime. During the late 1980s, police leadership began to focus on both problems, expressing a willingness to pursue every allegation of malpractice and to rid the police of unworthy personnel. Penalties for official violators of criminal statutes also increased. The success of these efforts was unclear as of mid-1991.

    Data as of January 1992

    NOTE: The information regarding Belize on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Belize The Belize National Police information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Belize The Belize National Police should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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