Police chief steps out

Cayman’s new Acting Police Commissioner, James Smith, says he is thrilled to be heading up the RCIPS after being overlooked for the job for former Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan in mid-2005.

Stepping out for his first meeting with the media since arriving on 29 November, Mr. Smith confirmed he will now be directly responsible for the controversial Operation Tempura, which is being headed up by someone he is no stranger to – Special Investigating Officer Martin Bridger.

‘I will be solely responsible for the operation – that is my job as Commissioner of Police. There is no equivocation about that,’ he said of the probe.

It’s not the first time Mr. Bridger has had to answer to Mr. Smith – Mr. Bridger was chief superintendent of one of nine north London boroughs that Mr. Smith had responsibility for before he left the Metropolitan Police in January 2006 for a top job in the UK’s Civil Nuclear Constabulary.

Mr. Smith described Mr. Bridger as a highly experienced officer that he has a lot of confidence in.

However, he stressed that the relationship between the two is a professional one, noting that before arriving in Cayman, he had not spoken to Mr. Bridger since January 2006.

Mr. Smith confirmed to reporters that he had previously applied for Cayman’s top police job in 2005 and had been disappointed to be passed over.

Governor Stuart Jack named Mr. Smith as the acting commissioner 24 November, saying the UK law enforcement veteran was expected to stay on for six months while a permanent commissioner of police is recruited.

However, Mr. Smith is not ruling out throwing his hat in the ring for the top-job on a permanent basis.

‘Let’s just wait and see,’ he said when asked about staying on permanently. ‘It’s important that I like what I see here but it’s doubly important that the people here like what they see in me.’

He confessed he has no idea what aspect of the job it was that forced Governor Stuart Jack’s first choice for the acting commissioner’s role, Royce Hipgrave, to withdraw from the position just 48 hours after arriving on the Island.

Reporters at the press briefing had plenty of questions about Operation Tempura, whose status has been the subject of much speculation after investigators received an embarrassing rebuke from acting Grand Court judge Sir Peter Cresswell over the bungled arrest and search of the house and office of Grand Court Justice Alexander Henderson.

Mr. Smith said it would be wrong for him to come to any strong conclusions over the operation after being in Cayman for only a few days.

However, he admitted he has been surprised to find the situation within the RCIPS is not as dire as he had expected.

‘If I am completely honest, I thought I would arrive … to find a police service on its knees, where people were completely despondent with what’s going on and finding it difficult to get on with the daily task of policing the Cayman Islands.

But, he said: ‘The officers and staff of the RCIPS are not on their knees; they are not despondent; they are a tremendously cheerful group of people who are intent on doing a good job in quite difficult circumstances.

‘The focus of my job for the moment and for the long term future is to support those officers and staff and make sure the people of the Cayman Islands get the policing service that they deserve. That is, a policing service that is of a very high standard, which is competent, confident and reactive to the needs of the community as we discuss their needs with them.’

While he wasn’t specific, Mr. Smith said he has already identified reforms he wants to make within the RCIPS, adding he wants to see a big focus on community policing.

Mr Smith comes to the Cayman Islands with over 35 years policing experience, during which time he has led internal and external enquiries; commanded responses to significant international events, including the Command Team for the July 2005 London terrorist bombings, and has wide policing experience in a variety of countries and jurisdictions.

He spent 30 years rising through the police ranks in Scotland, then became a Commander in the Metropolitan Police Service before becoming Deputy Chief Constable of the UK’s Civil Nuclear Constabulary from 2006-2008.