Government ministers said Thursday that steps are being taken to bridge what has recently been a difficult public relationship between elected officials and the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
‘A lot of the problem has been lack of communication, I can assure you of that,’ Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said.
Mr. Tibbetts, for the first time since being elected to his current position, attended an internal briefing of the RCIPS command staff on Wednesday. He said he would be discussing the briefing privately with his Legislative Assembly colleagues this week.
Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan revealed last month that he had appeared before Cabinet several times this year to speak with elected members on a range of security issues. Mr. Kernohan also said that Governor Stuart Jack had previously invited Mr. Tibbetts to attend weekly internal RCIPS briefings.
Mr. Tibbetts said Thursday that he would be a regular at those meetings in the future.
Elected Cabinet members have raised concerns about the overall lack of input from elected members regarding police policies. Under Cayman’s current constitutional arrangement, the governor’s office has sole responsibility for the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs which includes police, immigration and customs. The only official role elected members of government play is in approving the budget for those departments.
The relationship between law enforcement and the elected government was strained last spring when police and immigration officials allowed about 30 Cubans being held in detention to freely roam the streets of George Town and speak to the press without informing Cabinet ministers.
‘This is something we’re insisting on,’ Education Minister Alden McLaughlin said at the time (see Caymanian Compass, 23 April, 2007). ‘At least one member of the (elected) Cabinet should attend these briefings so we know what is going on. Either they involve the elected government or they will have a crisis.’
A recent spate of high-profile crimes in Cayman has increased calls for police oversight. Mr. Tibbetts has suggested the implementation of an evaluation or audit system to monitor RCIPS operations and spending.
Elected ministers did not previously mention that the police commissioner had come to brief Cabinet on an as-needed basis.
‘There are occasions when the elected arm (of government) would request HE the Governor to ask the police commissioner to come and brief us on certain specific circumstances which obtain, and we have done so,’ Mr. Tibbetts said Thursday.
However, Mr. McLaughlin said Cabinet briefings and even attending regular internal police briefings is not ‘ideal.’
‘We are still firmly of the view that the country needs a National Security Council…where there is constitutional backing for the role of the elected government in discussions about strategies and policies in relation to internal security.’
The council, as proposed by the government, would consist of the governor, deputy governor, attorney general and three elected members who would provide a policy direction for the police service. Elected ministers have said the council’s role should be one of oversight, and should not interfere with the day to day operations of the police service.
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush has said such a proposal amounts to the elected government trying to ‘control the police’ and that it would create a breakdown in the separation of powers within Cayman.
‘Give (the PPM) the power to tell police what to do and you better not even come out of your house,’ Mr. Bush said (see Compass, 30 January). ‘The protection offered from arbitrary arrest and victimization by the present system of having a governor who maintains the independence of certain arms of government wouldn’t be available under (the PPM’s) proposal.’
Government ministers have dismissed Mr. Bush’s comments as ‘scaremongering.’
‘What we have been trying to do…is to have regular impact and understanding of what the police strategies and so forth are,’ Mr. McLaughlin said Thursday.