The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service will often say they can’t keep the community safe without some help from members of the community.
Last weekend, a few of those community members who put themselves at risk to save other lives or stop crime were honoured – along with the police officers who do that every day.
The RCIPS Outstanding Service Awards, held at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman on Friday, 16 March was attended by close to 500 people. Profits from the event will go toward the police welfare fund. The 2011 Outstanding Service Awards event raised $50,000 for the fund, which is used to assist the families of police officers if the need should arise.
The Police Welfare Fund was originally established to assist children of police officers who died while in service. However, in more than 100 years, the RCIPS has never experienced a death in the line of duty.
The fund has expanded to cover a wide range of circumstances, such as illness or injury, to support members and their dependents in times of need. In the past year, $75,000 was provided by the fund to help 25 RCIPS families. In addition, as a direct result of last year’s inaugural RCIPS Outstanding Service Awards event, scholarships have been offered to RCIPS staff and their children to the tune of $19,000.
Two groups of finalists shared the Community Award for outstanding – a few might say crazy – acts of bravery.
Ray McGuire, Edward Azan and Charles Ebanks were threatened with a shot gun and pepper sprayed last May at the Blackbeard’s Liquor store in Grand Harbour by two suspects who thought to rob the business in broad daylight.
Mr. Ebanks, who famously uttered the phrase “not today bobo” to one of the robbers, along with Mr. Azan, actually chased down the two suspects after they fled the scene. By the time police arrived, the two crooks were being held down by Mr. Ebanks and Mr. Azan.
It received less publicity, but three people who braved rough seas in attempts to save four men thrown into the water when their boat capsized last June were also honoured by the RCIPS, Premier McKeeva Bush and Governor Duncan Taylor.
Peter Foster-Smith and Charlotte Roselev, of Sunset Divers, had been on a dive boat with Charlotte’s friend, Martin Jensen, when they saw the small boat capsize. Mr. Foster-Smith battled rough seas while Ms Roselev and Mr. Jensen entered and the re-entered the water, facing repeated personal danger, to pull the four men, none of whom were wearing life jackets, onto the dive boat. They took the men to shore where paramedics were waiting. Unfortunately, one of the men could not be resuscitated and died.
“But for the bravery of Peter, Charlotte and Martin the death toll could have been much higher,” police said.
Senior Police Constable Miguel McFarlane was named as Police Officer of the Year. Mr. McFarlane’s beat is the George Town waterfront. He is referred to by many as the face of the RCIPS and is held in high regard by tourists, residents and business people alike for his professional approach, police said.
Venice Tatum is the Administrative Secretary at the Cayman Brac police station. She was named as Support Staff Member of the Year. Mrs. Tatum was nominated by her colleagues seven times and for two separate awards. She is described as the “backbone”, the “heartbeat” and the “engine” of the police station – and when she is not carrying out her day time role she is also a special constable.
Special Constable of the Year honours went to Special Constable Medardo Martinez. Special constables volunteer their services and work alongside regular police officers without pay. Mr. Martinez worked almost 700 hours in 2011, making him the special constabulary’s top performer – all the while carrying out his full-time job. He works every Friday night with the George Town shifts and has been involved in a number of significant arrests this year, police said.
Constable Sharon Baillie of West Bay picked up this year’s Diversity Award. Police said Mrs. Baillie has excelled in devising projects with the young and old to keep them engaged with each other and the community. She is responsive to the needs of everyone in her community and is a fine example of neighbourhood policing, police said.
The winner of the RCIPS Welfare Award was Sergeant Winsome Prendergast. She was nominated for her unrelenting commitment to the welfare of police staff, police said. Sergeant Prendergast is also the former president of the Police Welfare Committee.
Speaking at the event, Police Commissioner David Baines said: “It’s clear that everyone who was nominated, whether they are a police officer or a member of the community, should be considered a winner tonight. The fact that their bravery, their professionalism and their commitment to do the right thing inspired others to nominate them is testament to the great work that is taking place every day throughout these Islands.”