Northwest England bobbies already taking heat
Veteran police investigators from northwest England started arriving on Grand Cayman on Thursday after their commanders spent the week with Royal Cayman Islands Police Service brass hashing out the best ways to use them in the fight against surging gang violence.
Merseyside Police Chief Constable Jon Murphy said during a Friday news briefing the group of 20 officers – to be paid for by the Cayman Islands government – had an initial six-week contract and that the team wasn’t planning on staying much longer than that.
“The officers come out here, they’ll be very professional, they’ll do their job and they’ll come home in six weeks,” Mr. Murphy said Friday. “I’m clear this is a short-term assignment. I need those officers in the UK. It would have to be exceptional circumstances for [a longer stay] to happen.”
The circumstances surrounding a spate of five deadly shootings in nine days last month on Grand Cayman could indeed be described as exceptional. The attacks – at least three of which were directly related to one another – killed Robert Macford Bush, Andrew Anthony Baptist and Preston Rivers in West Bay, Jason Christian in George Town, and Asher McGaw in East End. A sixth man was also struck by gunfire in the attack that killed Mr. Christian, but he survived.
The oldest of the victims was 28. The youngest two were only 18.
RCIPS Police Commissioner David Baines, who is from the north of England himself, said the UK cops won’t be used as ‘first-responders’ at the scenes of crimes – if anything further should occur. Rather, they will be deployed as secondary investigators – basically partners – for RCIPS detectives out in the field investigating the killings.
In the weeks immediately after the five homicides, RCIPS has made one arrest directly related to the shooting in East End. Other arrests made prior to that were largely for suspicion of gang-related activities. No charges were filed in any of the earlier arrests.
“They will be split into groups and put into the existing investigative teams,” Mr. Baines said. “Their initial investigative role is to support the murder investigations. Secondly … if we’ve got investigative skills in other enquiries … they’ve had a missing from home that’s still an active enquiry and we’ve also got some armed robbery offences … the idea is that every officer will work alongside a local officer.
“It’s about skill sharing and experience sharing,” Mr. Baines said. “The lead individual of any pair will be the local officer … because in six months’ time or a years’ time or two years’ time, we’re not looking to send those officers back out and give evidence. In cases where we do need them … as primary witnesses, then fine.”
Mr. Murphy said the 20 officers are mainly experienced detectives, but a few have specialist skills in the areas of preparing evidence and witnesses for court, handling evidence exhibits and the like.
“They will make assessment of crime scenes, judgments around the forensic opportunities, about house-to-house enquiries, about securing witnesses, about what intelligence sources they might be able to exploit. The difference is, they will be doing in partnership with a Cayman officer,” Mr. Murphy said. “In terms of being put in harm’s way, that won’t happen.” Just last year, RCIPS had to call on similar assistance from West Midlands Police in England following a separate spate of gang-related killings. Twelve officers spent about a month in Cayman during that trip, after which the Islands recorded no homicides for about a year.
Toward the end of the six-week contract for the current UK group, Mr. Baines said some of the officers now being recruited on a permanent basis by the RCIPS will begin coming on board. The commissioner said local police had received some 200 applications for 50 local officer positions. However, since most of those were specialist roles, Mr. Baines said it was unlikely any rookies would be hired.
“We’re keeping a list of those for future recruit classes,” he said.
Mr. Baines said Governor Duncan Taylor was also looking at recruiting a forensic evidence specialist and a legal advisor to help assist local police in preparing criminal cases, but he wasn’t aware that anyone had been placed in those posts yet.
Sun and heat
Mr. Murphy and his Chief Superintendent Tony Doherty, who also appeared at Friday’s press briefing with Mr. Baines, were the subject of an extensive story in Saturday’s Daily Mail in the UK titled: ‘The Snorkelling Squad’.
A photographer from the newspaper had apparently followed the men around Grand Cayman and taken pictures of them on a boat trip, sunbathing, eating and generally taking their ease.
Mr. Murphy had been in Cayman since 3 October, essentially to help Commissioner Baines and the RCIPS generate a plan for how they would use the incoming group of UK officers. He returned to the UK on Friday.
Back in the UK during an interview with Sky News, Mr. Murphy accused a Daily Mail journalist of ‘spying’ on him and reportedly said he “suspected [the journalist] didn’t have the proper Visa to do that”.
The Mail reported a similar story last year that depicted former members of the Operation Tempura investigative team enjoying some fun in the sun. The paper labelled that group ‘The Sunshine Squad’.