An update on what the police in West Bay have achieved since the last meeting seven months ago was high on the agenda at Monday evening’s community police meeting in the district.
It took place at the Church of God Chapel, Town Hall Road, where Chief Inspector Richard Simms outlined some of the items the police acted on that were raised as concerns at a previous district meeting in November 2005.
‘West Bay police are doing everything they can to keep the streets safe,’ he said.
Included in the areas targeted was speeding along North West Point Road. In February they got a speed gun and 46 people had been prosecuted through this. However, the radar has since malfunctioned and for the moment it has been taken out of service.
The four-way junction was also a concern and officers have been paying close attention to the junction resulting in a number of arrests with regard to people breaking the stop signs.
There was also a call for a more visible police presence in West Bay at the last meeting. Since then the launch of Operation Tentacle has resulted in higher visibility policing in West Bay on foot and vehicle. Chief Insp Simms said people had commented on the higher visibility of police in the district.
He gave an outline of how many members of the force are currently stationed in West Bay: There is one chief inspector; one inspector, five sergeants and 19 constables.
Answering a question from the floor, Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan said the reality is that the best use must be made of the staff in the area.
‘Not all staff work as hard as others,’ he said, noting that not every member of the RCIPS is as fully focused as he would like them to be.
‘We need to look at the requisite staff in an area and make sure they are working hard,’ he said.
Chief Insp Simms said there have been minimal complaints regarding loud music at the public beaches as a result of signs they had posted there.
In recent weeks there had been some increase in burglaries in the district. However, an operation was launched involving each police officer losing a day off a week. Covert operations and house to house enquiries were done, resulting in three people responsible for most of the burglaries being apprehended, he said.
Commissioner Kernohan noted that an upgrade is on the way for West Bay Police Station with increased capacity for cells. Staff will also find it more hospitable to work in and it will look better from the outside, he commented.
In response to a question about the RCIPS buying its own helicopter, the Commissioner said air support is a fundamental to any police force. The RCIPS already buys air service from Cayman Islands Helicopters. This has proved its effectiveness, said the Commissioner.
However, noting that it is his undertaking to use public funds responsibly, he said he would have to prove the value and effectiveness of it and convince people it is needed.
In response to a question regarding police dogs, Commissioner Kernohan admitted that the force needs more canine help, and officers to work with the dogs.
The K9 section is highly specialised however, and can involve different training and breeds for different functions such as finding explosives, drugs, bodies, and for general patrol.
Concerns were raised at the meeting over the security of the John A. Cumber Primary School to which Chief Insp Simms said a police presence would be ensured at the school.
Community Beat Officer Steve Myers described how he is trying to help children through getting a skateboard programme off the ground.
This will involve building skateboard ramps in all districts in order to give children a sporting outlet and help them become creative, fit, boost their confidence and keep them out of trouble.
Answering a question on whether the RCIPS is up to full force, Commissioner Kernohan said numbers have been increasing all the time, while the ebb and flow on recruitment is constant. They might be up on establishment levels one week and down another. This week, he said, they are just about on establishment levels.
Commissioner Kernohan added that police all over the Caribbean are having trouble recruiting not only local people, but anyone.
Although many are under establishment levels the RCIPS is not, he said.
When questioned about grievances within the police services and mechanisms by which officers can address these, the police chief said he runs a forum Tuesday and Thursday mornings when any member of staff has direct access to him. Moreover, they do not have to tell anyone why they are seeing him.
‘They bring a real spread of issues,’ he noted.
‘If any officer has any problem I’m quite happy to listen,’ he said, noting that a big part of achieving the best out of one’s staff is by making them as focused as possible.