Same old, same old?

East End residents welcomed new Commissioner of Police Stuart Kernohan courteously and sincerely at a public meeting on Thursday night.

But their loudest applause came when one man in the audience declared that he had been coming to police meetings for nine years and ‘every meeting is a rehash of the same thing.’

The topics raised that night, he pointed out, had been raised before – drugs, speeding drivers and concern for youth.

After hearing from this resident and a woman who spoke about the drug problem in a specific area, Mr. Kernohan replied: ‘I will come back in three months and you can tell me whether we’ve done better.’

Inspector Brad Ebanks, second in command in the Drugs Task Force, responded to criticism that nothing had happened after residents at the last police meeting were promised a mobile unit in a named drug area (Caymanian Compass, 9 August).

Officers started gathering information, Mr. Ebanks explained. Then, in September, ‘we had a major incident that put chills through the whole island,’ he said, referring to the daylight home invasion robbery at Patrick’s Island. As a result, officers had to be placed on other duties.

Police are now planning to take drug interdiction and border patrol to anew level, the inspector said.

Mr. Kernohan began the meeting, as he did in other districts, with a brief overview of strategic issues. These included crime containment, neighbourhood policing, border security, modernisation of the police service, calls and responses, leadership and direction, performance management.

Performance management, he said, refers to al officers making sure they have a proper understanding of what is expected of them and supervisors reinforcing what is done right. There will be accountability a system of annual appraisal.

One man asked if that system included the commissioner himself. Mr. Kernohan appeared to welcome the question and explained that he is accountable to the Governor.

In addition to the regular complaints about speeders and other bad drivers, several people spoke about the racing on the road near the quarry.

District MLA Arden McLean advised the commissioner that the racing started several years ago when a permit was granted for one Sunday every three months or so. But some drivers started going to the area on days when there was no permit.

Some ‘young kids’ were extremely aggressive towards area residents, Mr. McLean commented. He had contacted one of the inspectors, who had sent officers to the road the next Sunday to disperse the would-be racers.

Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis noted that when permits were first granted for racing, the area was undeveloped. Now it is developed and he doubted very much that any commissioner would give any more permits.

Asked about the policy on receiving information from the public, Mr. Kernohan said an officer was right to ask the person’s name and where he or she was calling from. But if a caller wants to be anonymous, ‘you are absolutely entitled to do that.’

The commissioner gave two reasons why an officer asks the caller’s name: it enables the officer to call back and report results; it enables contact in case the caller might be asked to give a statement.

The meeting was the last of a series in which Mr. Kernohan met residents of each district. Officers in attendance included Chief Inspector Donald Watler, Acting Chief Inspector Adrian Seales and PC Lenford Butler, the district constable.