Police policies going public?

Royal Cayman Islands Police
commanders this week indicated that the police service would at least consider
releasing to the public a number of operational policies that have been

RCIPS Chief Inspector Angelique
Howell, who was recently reassigned to the new Contingency Planning Unit in the
service, said Monday that she and Police Commissioner David Baines would like
to move in that direction.

To date, the dissemination of
police operational policies has been ad hoc, at best, and often issues weren’t
communicated properly within the service, much less to the broader public.

“You’d have somebody, like a head
of department write a piece of policy…some people will put it on the system,
but not everybody was aware of it,” Ms Howell said. “Half the time you don’t
know what the policy is, half the time you don’t know where to find this

“What Mr. Baines is trying to do is
to change that. Put it where everybody is informed about everything and you
know where you can find things.”

The issue is one that has troubled
the police service before, including during the investigation into the disappearance
of 21-year-old Sabrina Schirn last year. Her family members claimed that police
didn’t take her vanishing seriously at first.

Sabrina’s body was found in East
End bush land six days after she went missing. A Northward Prison inmate was
charged with her killing.

The Caymanian Compass enquired at
the time into whether RCIPS had a policy regarding the handling of missing
persons cases. According to police Standing Orders, officers with the Criminal
Investigation Department are required to investigate all reports of missing
persons 24 hours after receiving the first report, or immediately if the
missing person is younger than 16.

There is a draft “missing persons
investigations” policy that sets out the various levels of response police can
make to missing person reports depending on how serious they consider the
incident. According to information provided by Deputy Police Commissioner
Anthony Ennis, Sabrina’s vanishing was handled as the most serious high-risk
response scenario.

A high-risk response requires
immediate deployment of police resources. A police supervisor must be notified
and respond, and a member of the department’s Silver Command – police chief
inspectors, generally – must be notified to ensure the investigation is
appropriately staffed.

The missing persons draft policy
has never been formally reviewed and approved by the RCIPS. 

Ms Howell said Monday that she had
just finished a comprehensive review of the RCIPS missing persons policy and
that senior police commanders were now looking at it. It was expected that the
policy and a form used for reporting missing persons would be made public when
all is complete.

However, there are other
operational policies that will not be released to the public. For instance, the
police vehicle pursuit guidelines have never come out, despite repeated media
requests. Chief Inspector Howell said part of that policy could be released,
but all of it will not.

“We cannot give to the public
exactly how we do things,’ she said. “For instance, if you say after certain
miles you don’t pursue anymore. There are certain parts of policy that the public
will not be able to get.”

Ultimately the idea is to publish
on the government’s website all policies that won’t jeopardise police
operations, Ms Howell said.

Critical incidents

One of Ms Howell’s major projects
now is the creation of an RCIPS critical incident manual. This will cover
police response strategies in instances like bomb threats, aircraft
emergencies, and kidnappings, among other things. Also, the Contingency
Planning Unit is seeking to create a ‘casualty bureau’, a specially trained
group of officers who will focus on victims’ family members in the event of a
major incident that leads to multiple deaths.

“We don’t have that now in Cayman,”
Ms Howell said. “We have people here from more than 100 countries and their
families will want to know what happened to them.”

The unit also has responsibility
for traffic and security management plans for certain yearly parades and for
personal protection details for visiting dignitaries and the Cayman Islands
Premier. It has also revised the country’s hurricane contingency plans in the
past few months.

“It’s a lot of work,” Ms Howell
said. “I find myself working seven days a week even when I’m not at work. Even
on the plane, I’m working.”

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