Barkers curfew still holds

Barkers will remain closed at
night, at least for the foreseeable future.

Deputy Area Commander for West Bay,
Inspector Brad Ebanks, noted the decision at a community meeting with police
this week at John A. Cumber school hall.

The heavily wooded natural area at
the northeastern tip of West Bay has been shut nightly to visitors since March
2009. The move was partly in response to two separate incidents, the first
being the discovery of the body of murder victim Estella Scott-Roberts in the
area in October 2008, and another incident involving a female who was abducted
and taken there in March 2009, but who managed to escape.

The Compass previously reported that
police had also expressed concern about people using Barkers at night for
parties where alcohol and drugs are sometimes consumed and that residents were
hoping that closing the road at night might also help to reduce illegal
dumping.

Area resident Rupert Ebanks
supported the opposing view, saying illicit activities were not restricted to
Barkers. Expressing his displeasure with the decision, he argued that the
night-time closure discriminates against law-abiding West Bay residents.

Despite this, Inspector Ebanks said
the night-time closure would stand, though the police have reassessed the
closing hours and changed them to  closing
at 8.30pm and reopening at 5.30am.

With about 40 area residents in
attendance, the meeting was part of an Island-wide series of town hall meetings
with Police Commissioner David Baines. Government ministers Mark Scotland, Mike
Adam and Rolston Anglin were also in attendance, along with several police
officers and MLA Captain Eugene Ebanks. 

Building professionalism

Mr. Baines addressed general
criticisms about lack of professionalism among officers and complaints that
some officers lack basic skills, hindering their ability to take proper
statements.

“We are now introducing new
professionalism. For example, we have gone into partnership with UCCI to build
skills like basic literacy,” he said.

Caymanian representation on the
force was also a hot topic on Monday, including concerns raised by one attendee
that Caymanians seem to be pushed aside after a 2004 “mass exodus” of Caymanians
from the force.

Mr. Baines said 60 per cent of
officers are Caymanian, adding there are 362 officers and 39 vacancies.

He said there is a need for a
balance between developing opportunities for Caymanians and the need for
experience, particularly in cases where highly developed expertise is required.

“I can’t just open a box and pull
out detectives with 10 years of on-Island experience,” he said, while noting
that the RCIP will be bringing in 10 new experienced officers to mentor junior
officers in order to build on that objective.

Pointing to the UCCI initiative,
Mr. Baines said it would provide an avenue for officers to gain more experience
to allow them to rise through the ranks.

“It has to be a meritocracy,” he
said.

Mr. Baines discussed a high potential
development scheme for promising Caymanian officers, but in the meantime he
expressed the need to bring in highly experienced officers when required, as
had been the case after the spate of gang shootings earlier this year.

He said the enterprise had
considerable positive knock-on effects as the 14 officers brought over from the
UK had gained valuable overseas experience. This in turn generated interest in
having local officers spend time in the UK to gain what Baines termed ‘big
city’ experience. He added that building that expertise in the Cayman force
would prove useful in cases where, for example, QCs from the UK are brought in
for trials, underscoring the necessity of the quality of Cayman police work to
be top notch.

Meeting the needs of the community

Also speaking at the meeting,
ministers Adam and Scotland took time to outline some of the many strategies
the Cayman Islands government is taking to support at-risk youth, though some
in attendance expressed concerns that the efforts were not engaging the right
youth.

Mr. Baines said that intervention
needs to start as early as age eight, which is something community level
policing could work on with government.

Responding to concerns that
officers may be taking a harsh tack with minor offences and that a certain
level of discretion would be appreciated, Mr. Baines said the use of discretion
in the context of community policing is a tricky proposition, as it is
difficult to support in practice when the RCIPS aims for consistency among all
its officers.

The meeting also raised the issue
of the current RCIPS police stations, with attendees noting that the West Bay
station in particular needs to be upgraded.

Mr. Baines agreed, saying he had
raised the issue before.

“We want professional policing buildings,”
he said.

Calling Cayman’s police stations
dreadful places, Mr. Baines said he would gladly accept community support for
this issue, which he would put before Cabinet.

In addition, many in attendance
commented on the renewed presence of local officers assigned to West Bay, which
was generally agreed to be a good thing.

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