Police, immigration face staffing issues

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The two government agencies most
responsible for keeping Cayman’s residents and borders safe admitted last week
that they are facing serious challenges with staffing.

Royal Cayman Islands Police Service
Commissioner David Baines said his organisation was starting to make up a gap
that at one time had reached some 85 police officers, but he said RCIPS still
needed many more skilled police professionals in the areas of criminal
investigations and neighbourhood policing.

Meanwhile, Portfolio of the Civil
Service Chief Officer Franz Manderson – who has oversight responsibility for
law enforcement, including immigration – said the country’s Immigration
Department is having a tough time hiring Caymanian officers to fill vacant
posts there – particularly in the enforcement section.  

Although, the Immigration
Department has hired – and even been led by – non-Caymanians in the past, the
general policy is to hire local people first, Mr. Manderson said.

“We’re certainly not at the stage
yet where we want to have non-nationals in the Immigration Department enforcing
our laws – we don’t want to go down that road at the moment,” he told a group
of about 50 people who attended a Chamber of Commerce event last Wednesday at
the Marriott.

Meanwhile, Mr. Baines said RCIPS
was looking to foreign shores to bring in the kind of investigative expertise
that the police service has been lacking in.

“The RCIPS has seen…the
haemorrhaging of skilled people leaving the force,” he said, adding that an
aggressive recruitment campaign was under way in both Europe and North America for civilian crime scene techs and experienced
detectives.

The commissioner also noted that
the police service is recruiting locally for neighbourhood officers, whose
numbers had been reduced to about 12. Mr. Baines said he’d like to see that get
up to 29 or 30 officers eventually.

Local contractor Steve Hawley urged
Mr. Baines to redevelop neighbourhood policing efforts, but warned that re-establishing
officers’ connections with the community might take some time.

“It’s been a quarter of a century
since I’ve seen an officer talking to someone in the street,” Mr. Hawley said.
“Today, if two officers get out of a car and walk toward your house…you want to
go inside and close your door.”

The commissioner said the community
relations problem might be resolved quicker if more officers were added to the
force.

“We have enough officers responding
(to calls),” Mr. Baines said. “But our neighbourhood policing as it existed
three or four years ago has collapsed.”

Mr. Baines said he was being forced
at the moment to “rob” officers from specialist functions like neighbourhood
policing to ensure there were enough cops on the streets. He also said some
training was needed for neighbourhood police officers to be effective.

“It’s not about just patting dogs
and saying hello to kids,” the commissioner said.

Of the 85 job vacancies that
existed, Mr. Baines estimated some 46 positions remain to be filled.

Mr. Manderson said the Cayman
Islands Immigration Department has received budget approval to hire another 10
to 12 officers, but that recruiting efforts were being hampered by low
salaries.

“Regretfully, immigration officers
are not as well paid as I think they should (be),” Mr. Manderson said. “We had
one immigration officer who left the department and went to planning to work as
a compliance officer and got a substantial raise.”

How to bring individuals of “the
right sort” to the Immigration Department was the subject of a recent staff
meeting, he said.

“The (immigration) enforcement
section is not as robust as it should be,” Mr. Manderson said. “But we will get
there shortly as soon as we can hire the new staff.”

Chamber President Stuart Bostock
even questioned whether the Immigration Department was putting enough emphasis
on enforcement as one of its primary duties.

“There’s nothing (on the
immigration website) about protecting the country from immigrants who come here
with the intention of breaking our laws,” Mr. Bostock said. “We need to look at
who comes into our country, not just where they come from.”

The Chamber organisation has
expressed concern in the past that the Immigration Department was spending too
much of its time and resources policing employment matters such as work permit
issuance and the like.

Mr. Manderson said the absence of
border protection from the department’s website mission statement was an
oversight and confirmed that immigration officials do indeed consider that a
top priority.

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Mr. Baines
Photo: File