Gov’t: No police budget cuts

Government budget figures do not support statements made by a top ranking police commander last month that the police service had received what amounted to a nine per cent budget reduction in Cayman’s 2006/07 fiscal year.

According to numbers provided by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, the overall police budget increased from $26.9 million in 2005/06, to $31 million in 2006/07, to 32.9 million in the current budget year 2007/08; a 22 per cent increase over three years.

A further review by the Caymanian Compass showed that every major category of police funding provided by government had increased between the 2005/06 and 2006/07 budget years; including a 13 per cent increase in the budget for police patrols and an 11 per cent rise in the budget for criminal investigations.

The police patrol budget rose by another nine per cent in the current fiscal year (2007/08) and the criminal investigations budget rose another four per cent this year.

Deputy Police Commissioner Rudi Dixon said during a press conference on 29 February that the RCIPS had to reduce its budget by five per cent in 2006/07 and had to deal with an additional four per cent government-mandated hike in employee salaries.

‘Like any other organisation, there are occasions when we’re impeded by financial problems, and I want to say within the last financial year (2006/07), government committed to giving us additional resources but the budget didn’t reflect that,’ Mr. Dixon said.

A statement released by the RCIPS Thursday apologised for any confusion caused in relation to police funding.

However, the statement noted that government had approved an across-the-board eight per cent pay raise for civil servants, including police officers in the 2006/07 budget, for which the police service did not receive any additional funding.

Also, the police service did not receive the full amount it initially asked for in this year’s budget, which was about $34.5 million. The final figure came in less than expected because all core government budgets were rolled back by five per cent before final spending plans were approved.

A police spokesperson agreed that funding for RCIPS had gone up in the current budget year, just not as much as the department first hoped.

Mr. Dixon said the ‘reductions’ left the RCIPS with an estimated 27 fewer positions than it initially expected to have in the current year. In other words, the drop from the proposed $34.5 million to the actual $32.9 million (about $1.6 million) could have funded more police jobs.

The numbers for the police budget above are strictly for recurrent or operational expenses. They do not include one-time expenses often referred to as capital or infrastructure purchases.

According to the government’s Annual Plan and Estimates for 2007/08, some $5.5 million was set aside to start construction of a new marine base in Newlands, to buy several new patrol boats and a police helicopter. The helicopter was purchased from a police department in the United Kingdom last year for $1.8 million.

The helicopter’s arrival on island has been delayed largely because of an on-going tendering process which the government has required for the construction of a hangar, maintenance on the vehicle and the search for a helicopter pilot.

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