On Friday, May 25, 2018, 59 Forest Rangers of both government and forest co-management agencies were sworn-in as Special Constables following two weeks of intensive training at the Belize Police Academy. The training, which began on 14th May, 2018, culminated with Forest Rangers being sworn-in to exercise greater authority to arrest and seize for forest, protected areas, and wildlife-related crimes.
Mr. German Novelo, Key Biodiversity Areas Project Manager, stated that “the only way we can successfully stem illegal forest activities is by empowering our hard-working forest rangers within our partner agencies with the legal authority to seize and arrest.”
In speaking on the training conducted prior to the swearing-in, Novelo added that both the training and swearing-in were essential to strengthening the capacity of both Forest Department officers and its partners to enforce forest laws.
According to the Chief Forest Officer, Wilber Sabido, the training and swearing-in of Special Constables delivers on the Forest Department’s mandate to improve forest management compliance. As an intense two-week training, it was uniquely tailored to strengthen rangers’ knowledge and skills to effectively enforce all aspects of green-laws legislations, such as the Forest Act, Wildlife Protection Act, and the National Protected Areas System Act, and other legislation.
During the training, participants learned how to use a broad range of innovative and specialized law enforcement techniques, such as investigative skills, search and seizure skills, and gathering court evidence, through extensive mock-drills and simulation exercises. The training also exposed forest and wildlife officers and rangers to a wide range of tools and services available through partnering with other law enforcement agencies to respond to illegal forest crimes. Additionally, the training emphasized continued inter-agency collaboration and inter-departmental coordination in law enforcement activities, essential to combat forest and wildlife crimes.
Following the swearing-in ceremonies today, the Forest Department will formally establish its Compliance Monitoring Unit to strengthen monitoring and enforcement countrywide.
The Special Constable Training was funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment, Sustainable Development, and Climate Change through the Key Biodiversity Areas Project, in close cooperation with the Forest Department and the Belize Police Department. The Key Biodiversity Project is a government-led project to improve Belize’s natural resources management through capacity building, monitoring, enforcement and other community-based initiatives, implemented with the help of the World Bank.