One of the most immediate problems Cayman’s new police commissioner faces, in his own estimation, is restoring confidence within the ranks of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
David Baines didn’t attempt to paint a rosy picture about the situation during his first public appearance in the Cayman Islands Thursday.
‘I’m under no illusions of the scale of the job that faces me, not least in rebuilding public confidence in the RCIPS,’ Mr. Baines said. ‘But equally important, and probably of more immediacy for me, is building morale and confidence inside the RCIPS.’
Mr. Baines said the department has been rocked by scandals and investigations for the better part of the last two years, and that many police officers he’s spoken with since taking up the job on 1 June, while they are passionate and dedicated to the service, are ‘fed up’ with what they see as a political debate that has played out elsewhere.
He said the problems within the service have not been helped by some officers recently venting their frustrations in the press.
‘You’ve seen that in your own media where officers from different factions have been putting their own perspective,’ he told reporters. ‘I don’t think that does the service any good. It’s less than professional and it’s a discourtesy to all the individuals involved.’
The most recent, and perhaps most forceful highlight of the rift within the RCIPS concerns the potential reinstatement of Chief Superintendent John Jones.
Mr. Jones was temporarily removed from office on 27 March, 2008 in connection with investigation by the UK Metropolitan Police force dubbed Operation Tempura. Mr. Jones was recently cleared of any criminal wrong-doing in connection with that case and is now awaiting the outcome of a disciplinary review.
He has been granted a new contract and would be able to return to work if he is cleared in the disciplinary matter. To date, Mr. Jones said he’s heard nothing about the outcome of that case.
In May, some members of the Cayman Islands Police Association voiced concerns about Mr. Jones’ possible reinstatement and at one point planned to call a press conference on the subject. That never occurred.
However, the Caymanian Compass later learned that some police officers had received phone calls asking whether they would support or oppose Mr. Jones returning to his position. Former Acting Police Commissioner James Smith met with members of the police association about the issue, but declined to comment about the discussions.
Mr. Baines declined to comment on any specifics of Mr. Jones’ case and said it hadn’t come up so far in any of his private discussions with members of the police command staff or other office staff.
‘Mr. Jones, like anybody else, is entitled to natural justice,’ Mr. Baines said.
The new police commissioner said the best way to overcome problems of low morale and factions among officers in the service was to focus on the basics.
‘It’s essential that we put our communities first and if there’s any infighting within the organisation, it’s a secondary issue,’ Mr. Baines said.
Over the next four to six weeks, Mr. Baines said he would have as many face-to-face meetings with officers to perform assessment and skill evaluations. He hoped those evaluations would give him a better picture of what the police service was capable of and what additional training and equipment it needed.
He did not commit to filling positions left vacant by the at least temporary departures of Mr. Jones and Deputy Police Commissioner Rudolph Dixon, who is facing a criminal trial later this year.