Police funding threatened

The People’s Progressive Movement government has threatened not to approve funding for the Royal Cayman Islands Police Services if it does not get access to the weekly police briefings.

Speaking at the Cabinet press briefing on Friday, Minister Alden McLaughlin said not even the Leader of Government Business is invited to attend the briefings.

‘This is one of the reasons we need constitutional change,’ he said. ‘We continue to be almost entirely excluded from matters that deal with security.

‘We’re not even extended the courtesy of attending the police briefing which is held weekly and is attended by the Governor and Chief Secretary.’

Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts expressed frustration at not knowing what is happening in matters that deal with security such as the recent situation with Cuban refugees and then not being able to respond to questions from the media or public about it.

Faced with a number of questions from the media at the press briefing about the Cuban refugee situation, Mr. Tibbetts said all he could do was could try to arrange a separate press conference with the Chief Secretary, the RCIPS and Chief Immigration Officer.

‘It’s almost impossible for us [to respond to questions on the matter] because we simply don’t have the facts,’ he said.

Although he said it has historically been the case that members of the elected government have not attended police briefings, Mr. Tibbetts said the world is different now and that the public has higher expectations of the elected government when it came to security issues.

‘Many of the decisions that have been made [with regard to security] really should not be left to be decided by this little group of people,’ he said. ‘That arrangement is totally unsatisfactory.’

Mr. McLaughlin was much stronger with his comments.

‘This is something we’re insisting on,’ he said. ‘At least one member of [the elected] Cabinet should attend these briefings so we know what is going on.’

Mr. McLaughlin broached the subject of funding for the police.

‘When [the police] need funding, they’re all meek and courteous because finance committee has to approve their funds,’ he said.

The fact that the elected government could not attend police briefings to know what is going on and to participate in the decision making process is ‘fundamentally wrong,’ Mr. McLaughlin said, adding that he was not prepared to give any budgetary funding to the police unless they allowed one of the elected Cabinet members to attend the weekly police briefings.

‘Either they involve the elected government or they will have a crisis,’ he said.

‘We have a responsibility to the public and we’re accountable to the people.’

Mr. McLaughlin confirmed that the Cabinet had asked the police for permission to attend the briefings, but such permission had not been granted.

He made it clear that the elected government was not asking for control over the police, just for a greater role when it came to security issues.

‘There are some who believe [the police] are better managed if they are not subject to political interference, and that is somewhat true,’ he said.

‘We are not suggesting and never will suggest that [the police] ought to be under the control of elected members. But the elected government should be apprised of what is happening and have input on decision making,’ he said.

Mr. McLaughlin said there should be a commission in place with regard to security matters that is more representative of the elected government.

‘None of this is new or novel,’ he said. ‘That is what Gibraltar has done.

‘We have to get away from one person making the decisions. That is undemocratic.’

Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush said the government would receive no comfort from him on the subject.

‘The PPM was complaining about me not being able to [give details of crimes] when I was Leader of Government Business, and now they find themselves in the same position of where they don’t know certain things,’ he said. ‘The shoe is on the other foot.’

Mr. Bush did say that he thought the elected government should have access to certain information concerning security issues as long as it fell within the parameters of the Constitution.

However, Mr. Bush said the government’s threat to cut off police funding was unwise.

‘They’re much more lost than they appear at times if they think that’s the answer,’ he said.

‘If they do [not approve the police funding], I will call on the Governor to use his powers to restore the funds that are necessary to keep the police efficient to fight crime.’

Neither the RCIPS nor the Governor’s Office responded to requests for comments on the matter by press time.

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