Environment officers vulnerable

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.

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A DOE Marine officer shows off a seizure of seafood. – PHOTO:SUBMITTED

1 COMMENT

  1. I hear/read quite a bit about the harm done and harm attempted to be done to those people entrusted with the protection of people, property,etc. namely the police and now our fisheries officers.I am, for the most part, anti guns. But,those people who lay their lives on the line to perform their duties need to be able to defend themselves against the thugs of the world which includes this man who had one intent and that was to hurt those enforcing the law. At the least, these people should be equipped with stun-guns and access in their vehicles to whatever they need to protect all those concerned. If thats a hand gun, then so be it.
    When its all said and done, the judicial system needs to let the country know that all methods of protection will be offered those who enforce the law, which in this case should include a lenghty stay at Northwood for this offender.If he had killed or seriously injured this man, and it appeared he tried, im sure this facility will help this man understand the zero tolerance we need here and we need it now. If Northwood is not a deterrent then maybe a weekend at Fox Hill Prison in the Bahamas might help. Its one of the top plces in the world to stay. Enough is enough.

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