By Senator the Honorable,

Isabel Guadalupe Bennett, MScN (Edu), BScN (Admin- HONS), RN

The news report for this week started off with a heavy focus on our Police Department. The reported incidences floored our homes with news of police brutality and/or unprofessionalism on the part of a few police officers. As I tried to read and understand the numerous comments posted to the different news sources regarding the delicate Caye Caulker tourist/police mask-wearing incident, numerous issues stood out very clearly in my mind. But for the purpose of this article, I will only and can only, most briefly address, the issues of public expectation, professionalism, critical thinking and the power of words, with the latter being my love message to the public.

It was very obvious that the Caye Caulker video appealed to our emotions as a people and a portion of our population responded in instant outrage. This outrage is most likely because the video revealed an alleged violation of someone’s right. A violation of high standards that, we as Belizeans have zero tolerance towards in our service industry. We generally don’t hold back as a people given the platforms that exist on social media. In addition, as a nation, we obviously expect that our police force will be the first to uphold the laws, as their code of conduct rightly does not put police above the laws of the land. As a people, we are very prideful of the fact that we have a very beautiful country which visitors can enjoy within the laws of the land. I will go as far as to say, I don’t know of a Belizean who would say, we only interact with a tourist for money. As Belizeans, we are known generally, to the world over, as a warm, friendly people and, always, welcoming.

But social media had its own crowd of informal, some very level-headed and others were quite deadly ‘journalists’. Some delivered some very deadly statements without a second thought. The ugly mean words seem to be the most documented on this incident but there were messages of hope and applause. Those being few and far away but just like a light in the dark; those applauding stood out and could never be dulled. The ugliness in some instances at times all bordered on cyber bullying towards the police officers involved in the alleged incidence of abusive of power. Some demanded professionalism from the two officers but yet they were far from being professional themselves by their choice of words. It was obvious that some had no clue and others questioned people’s personal definition of professionalism.

What I saw most outstanding is the lack of critical thinking on the part of hundreds of commenters who chose to hammer deep wounding words towards the officers. Thankful for the clarification of some facts, the Commissioner of Police – Mr. Chester Williams indicated that the two police officers did issue two warnings to the tourist regarding the use of mask wearing. This obviously indicated that there is always, and I will say, for emphasis, that there is always, always two sides to a story. Of course there were those who waited for the other side of the story from the police department and were very cautious in their comments. This type of mindset by nature is critical thinking. It simply means to activate logic (facts) with emotions before making any comment – either good or bad or simply just question the circumstances of the incident. In this situation, we should have all been asking if the officers had exercised due diligence by giving a fair warning before hurling loads of negativity. I have seen this emotional highly damaging response repeated time and time again when incidences break the news on the different social media platforms. It is a major issue, we must address as a people given the damage negative words have on our own person and that of others

In the end, it’s the power of words that I wish to imprint on each of us from this one incident moving forward. In their jointly written book, “Words Can Change Your Brain”, Dr, Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at Thomas Jefferson University, and Mark Robert Waldman, a communication expert, stated that, “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” There is a whole world of science on this last point – the power of words. We are so quick to condemn, me included at times. Shamefully so. But if we stop to think before we speak, and if we stop to assess our own level of professionalism and critical thinking we would be so much closer to having a better version of ourselves just base on the words we utter and the thoughts we chose to think. If we stop to quickly think of the positive impact we would have on another human in a tight situation, as the two officers that day, we should always, always choose to speak life into a situation and have empathy for those involved.

To Police Officers Ms. Ishelly Recinos and Mr. Reynaldo Bol continue to hold your head up high. Continue to serve your country with the highest level of professionalism with which you were trained. I applaud you both and your Supervisor, Superintendent Ack OC Caye Caulker Police Sub Formation and my hearty thank you for serving your country especially during this difficult Covid 19 pandemic. Always remember your self-worth and that your service to our country Belize is priceless! I thank you!