Police chief willing to listen

Police Commissioner David Baines says he is willing to consider arming Marine Enforcement Officers so they can better protect themselves on the job.

The Marine Unit is charged with protecting the waters around the Cayman Islands from poachers and other threats that endanger the marine habitat.

The officers claim they are often asked to confront suspects who are intoxicated and/or armed and say they are not properly equipped to do so.

Currently, the Marine Unit’s officers have to depend on the Uniformed Support Group of the Royal Cayman Islands Police for assistance when a situation is too dangerous and say they are waiting for either the National Conservation Bill to be passed, or an endorsement by the Commissioner of Police.

Mr. Baines can apparently affect what tools may be used by enforcement officers in the Cayman Islands, though the Conservation Bill would change this, giving the discretion to heads of respective departments.

According to Mr. Baines, he has not been approached about the prospect of arming Marine Enforcement Officers as yet and can do nothing until the situation is looked at more closely by all parties involved.

Acting Chief Conservation Officer Mark Orr said he is planning to set up a meeting, as well as to issue all necessary letters, and conceded that the present commissioner seemed willing to make changes that would benefit the officers ‘on the beat’.

Recent developments have also seen Custom Officers who serve in the joint police, customs and immigration Marine Unit allowed to carry firearms, in addition to handcuffs, batons and pepper spray.

Mr. Orr cautioned however, that the Department of Environment was just as concerned about where to cut budgets as any other matter right now.

‘The department is also under-staffed and officers are forced to conduct their intervention operations as single-person-patrols,’ he said.

Most officers with the Marine Enforcement division have had some combat training recently, but only two of the six officers employed with the unit are authorised to carry batons.