How could one police officer do it all by himself twenty five years ago, let’s say in the 1950’s and 60’s? Well, the answer is fairly simple. There was very little crime on the island so there was no real big need for many officers.
They would have gotten bored doing nothing just like the single police officer did. If he was sitting at the police station, he would be doing his duty, but still there was not much to do so he had to keep himself busy doing other things.
First of all he was in charge of registering births on the island. However, this might have happened one or two times during the year, so the registration book kept collecting dust on a shelf in the small office. But again, he was also in charge of issuing death certificates, and again this occurred once every two or three years. Deaths were a very rare occurrence, so this book also collected dust like the birth register.
The police officer was also a customs inspector for the village, but since there were no goods entering the village, there was nothing to do. Only occasionally would someone travel to Chetumal and the officer was expected to go check the boat for items brought back whether legal or contraband. A little gift for the police officer like a bottle of Bacardi or Tequila and he would not even go to the dock to check the vessel. Approval would be given right in the office and at times from his bed.
Along this same line, the single officer was an immigration officer and he would issue travel permits to Chetumal. Upon the return he would stamp your permit and gladly receive a small gift - Bacardi, Tecate, a towel, or any such personal item. This always created a friendly officer and good relations with the citizens and by no means was this considered a bribe. It was always a gift.
If someone found a boat shipwrecked on the reef, the police officer was the one to check. If someone wanted to kill a pig for the sale of pork, the police officer was the one to check that the animal looked clean and healthy. Again, five pounds of meat and some delicious “chicharon” would make him happy and customer friendly.
The police officer in charge of the station was also an education officer. His job was to ring the bell at 7 p.m. and then take rounds around the village to ensure that everyone was obeying this voluntary curfew. And in the morning the officer would also make his rounds to ensure all children were at school. If caught not going to school, the child was taken to school and his parents were contacted by the police officer who would reprimand the parents or issue them a 50 cent fine.
The police officer was also a fisheries officer. He patrolled the sea with his motor boat to ensure fishermen were obeying the law like not fishing during the off season or catching undersized lobsters. And believe it or not, with all of these obligations, the officer still had a lot of time doing nothing, and to avoid boredom, he would go with friends fishing most of the time.
Now with all this hectic schedule do you think any police officer wanted to be posted in San Pedro? Of course they did love it. They were the happiest officers in Belize with nothing to do and yet a lot to do except dealing with crime.
Only occasionally was he called to break a fight in which two men were punching at each other and one of them attempted to break a glass bottle on the other’s head. That was the closest a police officer got to working on a crime case twenty five years ago. So we can conclude that one single police officer in San Pedro did it all by himself VERY EASILY TWENTY FIVE YEARS AGO.
- by Angel Nuñez, Columnist