More Caymanians in police service

Caymanians make up a significantly greater percentage of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service than they did just one year ago, according to police records.

A Caymanian Compass review done in August 2007 found the entire 425-person staff of the RCIPS, including police and civilian employees, was roughly 56 per cent Caymanian.

However, RCIPS business manager Gail Dargan said this week that figure has risen to about 62 per cent in the past year.

The reason for the large percentage increase wasn’t certain. The police service has not hosted any cadet classes so far in 2008.

Overall, the RCIPS staff is smaller than it was in 2007. Eleven officers had resigned from the force this year through mid-July, according to the department. All of them were expatriates here on government contracts.

The number of Caymanian police officers is believed to be hovering somewhere in the low to mid-50 per cent range when civilian RCIPS employees are taken out of the equation. But Acting Police Commissioner David George noted Tuesday that he’s hearing sentiments from certain community members who consider many of those Caymanian officers foreigners.

‘I’ve heard it from the community meetings…this suggestion that ‘well, if everyone were Caymanian, life would be fine,” Mr. George said. ‘I just don’t think that helps, because that then starts putting wedges (in the community).’

‘It encourages that sort of subliminal determination of people by where they come from, which I don’t think is helpful,’ he said.

Mr. George said RCIPS does not make a legal distinction in its employment records of whether a person is a ‘born Caymanian’ or a ‘status Caymanian,’ in other words whether they were automatically given that status through their parentage and birth or whether they obtained it through government processes after living here for a certain number of years.

‘I feel uncomfortable going too far down that road,’ he said. ‘The first question I was asked when I was over at the LA (Legislative Assembly) was: ‘I understand you’re recruiting 20 Filipino officers?’ We’re not.’

‘We will recruit the best person for the job, based within legislation. There is a danger (when) you go down the road of trying to categorise people by race.’

Mr. George said the department is bound by recruiting requirements which give Caymanians preferential treatment. However, he noted there are still some positions in the department which simply cannot be filled locally.

For example, he anticipates the department will hire an executive officer for its Air Support Unit in anticipation of the police service helicopter’s arrival later this year. Mr. George said it’s likely a specialist from the United Kingdom will have to be brought in to fill that position because the Cayman Islands has never run a police aerial unit.

He said the goal would be to replace that executive officer with a Caymanian once the appropriate training is provided.

‘I just don’t think anybody on island has those skills,’ he said.

Mr. George said he believes the make-up of the police department should ultimately reflect the make-up of the community.

Immigration statistics recently examined by the Compass showed there are likely to be well more than 30,000 foreign residents here on work permits, permanent residence grants, working as an operation of law, or on student visas.

The recent National Assessment of Living Conditions done by the government estimated that ‘the native born population of the Cayman Islands resident in the country might have been just about half of all persons who hold Caymanian status. Native born Caymanians are, in all likelihood, a minority of all persons resident in the Cayman Islands.’