Cops plan school body searches

Starting in the New Year, public school students will see quite a different look to security in and around the buildings where they attend classes.

body searches

The presence of police officers like these at John Gray High School will become more visible in the New Year.
Photo: Jewel Levy

Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines said last week that plans are in place to begin more thorough searches of students’ belongings and even their persons on a random basis. Mr. Baines said it is also in the RCIPS plan, once police staffing levels can accommodate it, to assign police officers to work inside public schools full time.

‘There have been a series of incidents at schools that have been drug-related, possession of, use of, that started to raise concerns,’ Mr. Baines said. ‘There’s going to be an increase in bag searches and when necessary… body searches, in appropriate circumstances.’

The commissioner said police are becoming alarmed at the ease with which drugs appear to be available at school campuses.

Mr. Baines met with Ministry and Education and Education Department officials on Tuesday to discuss the new security plans. The commissioner said he realises there may be some apprehension about the measures, but indicated school officials seemed supportive.

‘Once on a day, the schools were very, very loathe to do this,’ Mr. Baines said. ‘Because of experience, the schools are saying now ‘we’ve got to protect our children; we’ve got to protect our teachers.”

Details of how the searches will be conducted were still being worked out with education officials, he said.

There are two major safety issues the RCIPS is attempting to address at public schools. The first involves incidents of violence among students in and around school campuses. The second is an attempt to prevent adults – some of whom are believed to be gang members and drug dealers – from wandering around the perimeter of school campuses.

Mr. Baines said student searches will focus on retrieving weapons that are being carried into the buildings. The recent stabbing of a 17-year-old John Gray High School student by another student occurred during a bag search at the school.

According to statements made to the Caymanian Compass, the victim told school officials that the 16-year-old stabbing suspect had a knife on her – at which point the suspect allegedly took out the knife and stabbed the 17-year-old.

‘We can’t have kids stabbing one another in school,’ Mr. Baines said.

Meanwhile, the commissioner said police will make increased efforts to patrol school grounds to keep people who do not belong there from lurking in the area.

The commissioner said some of the pathways around schools, like the narrow John Gray High School cut through that leads to the University College of the Cayman Islands campus, might have to be closed off.

The changes to school security were expected to be announced in a letter to parents sent home with children on Friday, 18 December. Mr. Baines said he wanted there to be no surprises for parents with the new security measures.

He also said police would hand-deliver letters to the homes of students that the school system identified as frequent trouble-makers. The hand delivery comes instead of entrusting the trouble-making children to give the letters to their parents.

‘Forgive us for being cynical,’ Mr. Baines said.