Shift changes boost police coverage

East Enders have their say

Responding to East Enders’ requests
for more police presence in their district, Police Commissioner David Baines
detailed changes in work shifts to increase by 20 per cent the number of
officers on duty at any time.

Mr. Baines began his presentation
at a community meeting — one of a series — at the United Church hall
Wednesday night by setting out his priorities.

The first priority is to address
the complaints that people don’t see police often enough, that the officers are
not approachable, that people who come to police stations are not treated
courteously or are not able to state their business without others being able
to hear what they are saying.

He said that the shift structure
had been changed as of this week.

Questioned by East End MLA Arden
McLean and other members of the audience, Mr. Baines said the old shift system
had officers working 12 hours on duty and 12 hours off for four days, followed
by four days off.

That did not help if an officer
dealt with an incident on the last day of his shift and then was not available
to the public for the next four days.

“Twelve-hour shifts did not take
into account the time people most need them,” Mr. Baines said of the officers
on duty.

The community does not need as many
officers at 6am as it does at 6pm, he pointed out. The new system is a five-day
shift, with hours staggered so that some officers are on duty eight hours, some
nine and some 11 hours.

Mr. Baines said he had to cut 30
positions due to budget restraints.

In response to a request for an
increase in armed-response officers, Mr. Baines said, “I have to make the best
use of what I’ve got.”

An increase in armed response officers
would mean a loss somewhere else, he said. Major considerations include the substantial
time needed to get the officers trained and the change in the style of policing
this would involve, he said.

Response to armed incidents
includes the presence of unarmed officers who can observe what is going on and
who can take measures to protect other people in the area, he said.

When a woman asked what he was
doing about officers who give perjured evidence in court cases, Mr. Baines
asked her if she had made a complaint. Told no, he wondered what the police
could do if they don’t know about an incident. He pointed out that one complaint
would be “your word against his”. But if several complaints were made about the
same officer, “then we can do something.”

He said he had sacked one officer
for giving perjured evidence.

Another complaint was that police
officers too often drove through the district and didn’t get out of their cars.
One resident cited an incident outside a bar an hour-and-a-half after it had
closed. There was still a crowd of people, she said, but a police car passed
and no one stopped to find out what was going on.

Mr. Baines agreed that officers
have to be engaged with the community. Stopping to talk gives people an
opportunity to tell them things, he noted.

He also said that police are
working with 911 to have a non-emergency number so that calls can be recorded
and passed on to officers. This was in response to a man who pointed out that
sometimes people can’t remember a police station number or else they don’t get
an answer when they call.

Several people raised the issue of
having more Caymanians in the police service. Mr. Baines said he had to balance
that consideration with having experienced officers. One man who complained
that his son had applied to join the service but wasn’t even given the courtesy
of an answer. Mr. Baines asked to speak to him privately to find out why.

He also offered to stay after the
meeting to speak with anyone who wanted to talk with him.