Baines slams media at Chamber event

Talks about 7MB attack

Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines lambasted the local press Wednesday during a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce, referencing apparently non-existent news reports of a robbery on Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach.

“There was an incident last week where it was ‘tourist robbed and stabbed on Seven Mile Beach’. The other version that says intoxicated man attending a nightclub at midnight and a fall out between boys over girls…doesn’t sell stories, doesn’t make headlines and it doesn’t start with the word tourist.”

Commissioner Baines’ comments apparently referenced media reports about an assault involving a 21-year-old American tourist near Calico Jack’s bar. According to a brief police report on the incident: “The RCIPS is investigating a report of an assault that occurred just before midnight on Wednesday, 19 January on Seven Mile Beach adjacent to Calico Jack’s.”

Mr. Baines claimed that ‘headlines’ indicated there had been a robbery. However, a review of all local press reports on the incident – including those in the Caymanian Compass – found that no media sources had reported the incident as a robbery. In fact, the Compass could find no evidence that the word ‘tourist’ had been used in any news story headlines in either the newspaper or in a local on-line news service.

There was some speculation on Internet comment forums that the incident had been a robbery, but other commenters on those forums said that the incident had not been a robbery.

Mr. Baines did not precisely state what the incident on Seven Mile Beach did involve in his comments to the Chamber’s “Be informed” meeting Wednesday. Police never issued any further press releases regarding the 19 January incident.

Calls for a clarification regarding the commissioner’s statements had not been returned by press time.

“You wonder how many times we need to shoot ourselves in the foot, and that’s not about trying to hide what’s going on, it’s about giving facts,” Mr. Baines told about 30 members of the Chamber audience.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Baines urged the press to report responsibly on crime figures that showed serious crimes rose by only one incident between 2009 and 2010.

“Despite the fact that the Cayman Islands is still a relatively safe place to live, work and visit when compared to the crime situation in other jurisdictions, we very rarely see anything in the media that reflects that,” the commissioner said at a press briefing held at RCIPS headquarters.

Just a few minutes after making that statement at the news conference, the commissioner also opined: “2010 was a bit of a turbulent time in relation to crime…gang and gun related crime spiralled to levels never before seen in the Cayman Islands.”

Total crime rose by just more than four per cent for the year.

When comparing 2008 to 2010, RCIPS numbers show there were 81 more serious crimes reported in 2010; an increase of about 11 per cent.

Robberies went from 46 reports in 2009 to 64 reports in 2010; a 39 per cent jump. Some of those instances were believed to involve gang initiation, Mr. Baines said.

Attempted robberies also went up, along with attempted murders and defilement.

Some crimes saw a drop in 2010 including burglaries, assaults, woundings and murders – which dropped by one case from the previous year.

Drugs-related crimes were a major concern. RCIPS officers made far fewer arrests for drugs in 2010 than in 2009 or 2008.

Mr. Baines said this was partly due to a change in police strategy, and partly due to staff adjustments that had left the police drugs task force with fewer people.

He said RCIPS was spending more time investigating drug supply chains and less time looking to arrest street level dealers.

“It’s quite apparent to us that there are increasing levels of cocaine,” Mr. Baines said. “The purity of the cocaine is about as pure as you’ll get.”

Mr. Baines told the Chamber audience that, while Cayman is having its difficulties with crime, it is not anywhere near the problems seen in countries like Jamaica and Guyana over the past year.

He urged the group to “look up from our feet” to see what is going on in the rest of the Caribbean.

The commissioner also felt it had become “very easy” in recent times to criticise the police service.

“It goes back to the era of [Operation] Tempura,” he said to the Chamber group, referencing the two-year long police corruption investigation undertaken by officers from the UK Metropolitan Police force. “I think that left us with a legacy of a lack of confidence by a public who were waiting to see different.”

“But I’m not sure the media have caught up with the change in the dynamics of what’s going on in the police. If there’s a positive story or a negative one, I guarantee you it will be negative – and that’s a message to all the media in the room.”

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Do we take it from Commissioner Baines penultimate quote that he finally accepts that Tempura was, as I have been saying for over two years, a public relations disaster for the RCIPS?

    If so why doesnt he just spit (sic) it out and admit that the actions of Bridger el al, which cost millions of dollars and whose only tangible result was the arrest of four innocent men, followed by the months of uncertainty afterwards created many of the problems that the force he now commands must tackle?

    Going back to the headline, its no good bashing the press if the RCIPS isnt fulfilling its stated policy of being, open and honest with the media at all times.

    In fact it looks more like every effort has been made to shut down contact with the media since I was Crime Reporter at Cayman Net News in 2007/8.

    The news section of the RCIPS website doesnt appear to have been updated for over a year, it still lists contact information for the media relations team who left during 2009. In contrast my local force in the UK posts news updates almost in real time and we can find press officers 24/7.

    My media sources in Cayman also complain that direct contact with the RCIPS has significantly decreased in the past two years, with the press officer often being unobtainable and routine media briefings no longer being held. And what happened to the second press officer post created in 2008 to give better coverage?

    Without formal lines of communication the media will use informal ones, and if that means they print material that causes offence who is to blame? Its no good alleging (apparently incorrectly in this case) that trained and experienced journalists are getting things wrong when the fact is that the material they need to keep the public informed is being withheld from them, possibly by the same person who is making the complaint.

    Mr Baines, if you want the press to keep the public informed all you have to do is trust them and talk to them – its that simple. Grandstanding like this impresses no one, least of all the journalists who work long hours making sure the public gets up to date and accurate news.

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  2. The other version that says intoxicated man attending a nightclub at midnight and a fall out between boys over girls

    Here the CoP has already given his unofficial version of what took place in this incident.

    As Ive already stated, the laws and rules that apply to safety and compliance at all liquor licenced premises should be evenly applied to all and sundry at ALL locations where alcohol is served, regardless of location or make-up of clientele.

    This one rule for tourists and another for locals helps no one and actually puts visitors at a higher risk by allowing them to believe that their unacceptable behaviour will be tolerated simply because they are on vacation and that the same consequences might not be the outcome as it would be back in their home countries.

    I can assure readers that the countries that most of Caymans tourists hail from have much stricter enforced liqour licenced premises laws than the Cayman Islands and much stiffer penalties for drunken and disorderly behaviour.

    If Caymans visitors have to behave themselves at home, why should they not have to behave themselves when visiting the Cayman Islands ?

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  3. In a such a small place where with a press are far out of proportion to the size of the community they serve, the media are always going to have to jump on each and every bandwagon that comes along.

    Three small islands and a population around 50,000 that wouldnt be anymore than a large town anywhere else in the world, has to service, somehow, radio and TV news and a published / online paper.

    The real news story, if anyone dared to publish or broadcast it, isnt the effectiveness of otherwise of the RCIPS, it is the scale of serious crime that visits your islands.

    Murders, shootings, robberies, many, I would suggest are drug fuelled, dont just happen by chance. They happen because of the nature of the society you have created.

    As I have said before, look to yourselves for the answers, as unpalatable as they may be and stop trying to deflect the blame onto anyone and anything you can. Until you confront the demons of the Caymanian Society, there will be no improvement.

    The Beachbum

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  4. Beachbum

    Along with everything youve said that I totally agree with…

    Look at the position it puts CoP Baines in as a British police professional having to address
    an issue that was reported by the Caymanian press according to Caymans rule for tourists in the manner that he did.

    Who is responsible for law and order in the Cayman Islands; the police or the press ?

    The leadership of the RCIPS is totally compromised by political correctness and this is why the Cayman Islands is the unsafe place it is today…

    The Caymanians might as well stop hiring a British police professional as their Commissioner and go for one of their own and let the chips fall where they may.

    The Cayman Islands does not function under even the very basic of British laws for the safety of their citizens.

    Why continue to have the title Royal attached to their police force ?

    As we well know, Britain functions under much safer laws than this entire situation has proved.

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