Palm Beach News

Haitian Police Are Using PBSO Riot Gear on Protesters

In Haiti, anti-goverment protests have rocked the island nation over the past two months as thousands of people have taken to the streets over a wide range of issues, including delayed elections and high fuel prices. Often, Haitian police have fired tear gas to suppress the crowds, which gives the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office a direct link to the unrest in Haiti, because it donated some of the gas masks police wear when firing tear gas on protesters.

PBSO has been donating police supplies to the Haitian police force since 2010, when the Caribbean nation was devastated by a massive earthquake that killed more than 230,000 people. With the country ravaged by poverty and insecurity, free equipment and training was welcomed by locals. Since the first trip, PBSO deputies have returned three times, including this past November, to donate more equipment. In addition to gas masks, donations include riot shields, bulletproof vests, and even two police cars. PBSO has also conducted "leadership seminars" in which they apparently teach leadership skills.

Earlier this week, Haitian police force leaders visited PBSO headquarters to honor the sheriff's department for its continued assistance in providing equipment and training to the country's police forces.

But it's the "crowd control" gear that appears to be getting the most use out of the donated supplies. Headlines from news agencies around the world, including the BBC and APF, have described the heavy use of tear gas and rubber bullets on protesters, who have been accused of throwing rocks and burning tires as they demanded the ouster of Haitian president Michel Martelly.

Elections in Haiti have been stalled since 2011, when "six opposition senators used parliamentary procedure to prevent a vote while accusing the president of abusing his authority to appoint supporters to the electoral council and other posts," reports the Associated Press.

It's unclear how much crowd control gear PBSO has donated to the Haitian police force. PBSO did not comment on the volunteer effort.

Meanwhile, the tense situation in Haiti is expected to continue.

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Ray Downs
Contact: Ray Downs