Hook-stick attack reveals weaknesses
An attack on Marine Enforcement officers Wednesday has shown weak spots in those officers’ ability to protect themselves.
Three Department of Environment officers confronted a man suspected of taking several conch and lobster from a replenishment zone near Pirate’s Lair in South Sound. As they approached, the man lashed out at them with a hook and stick, cutting one of the officers on his forearm.
Chief Conservation Officer for the Department of Environment Mark Orr said that Marine Enforcement Officers in the Cayman Islands are quite concerned about their safety and do not have adequate tools to defend themselves.
“This guy yesterday (Wednesday) had a three-foot piece of rebar with a hook on the end. He missed our throats by an inch or two. I mean he had us backed up and there was basically nothing we could do. We tried to get the keys out of the truck from the passenger side, but one of the officers was cut fairly badly during the attempt,” said Mr. Orr.
He said the suspect then took off with the truck, which was ditched a short time later. The assailant was eventually found walking along Bodden’s Road in George Town.
A 52-year-old man was taken into police custody in relation to the incident and had not been formally charged by press time.
Mr. Orr said he is speaking with Department of Environment Director Gina Petrie to determine what can be done to get the DoE enforcement unit to a level where officers can have some level of confidence and protection on the job.
“This commissioner of police has indicated that he is willing to assist in arming us with the right tools as the powers to do so now falls under him.
However, if the National Conservation Law is put into effect, those powers will be shifted to Mrs. Petrie, who with the approval of Cabinet could institute implements that would assist the officers in matters of protection and personal safety,” said Mr. Orr.
The officers of the DoE have received special constable training but that was several years ago and once the training was over, they were told by then-Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan that they would not be granted special constable status because they were not under his supervision and the Police Service could not be liable for them.
As a result, the DoE officers were unable to receive the equipment that comes as part of being a special constable such as handcuffs, mace and other tools used for subduing suspects and protecting officers.
“Most of the people we deal with are under the influence of one substance or another and a lot of times people fishing illegally are not only impaired but also have spear guns and or knives at their disposal,” said Mr. Orr, who added that the with the passing of the Immigration Law Revision (2009), immigration officers now have the benefit of the Chief Immigration Officer being able to issue tools for duty, once approved by Cabinet.
Marine Enforcement officers depend on police support when situations are beyond their ability to control. An armed Uniformed Support Group will usually respond to such a request.
Commissioner David Baines has indicated he is ready and willing to accommodate the Marine Enforcement Unit. No discussions had convened as of press time.