“May you live in interesting times” is a Chinese curse, bestowed in the most inscrutable and understated manner in which the Chinese excel.
In the case of the Cayman Islands, and for that matter the wider world, we are indeed living in interesting times. Here in Cayman, the former premier McKeeva Bush is most certainly living in interesting times and one suspects that others may well be keeping a wary eye over their shoulder, lest their times become equally as interesting.
Many may be applauding the work done by RCIPS and, if rumour be believed, others in bringing about this state of affairs, but what of the custodians themselves? Are their affairs in order, or are they also about to find themselves “living in interesting times”?
This question begs asking because of the growing number of issues being highlighted by media, public and the custodians themselves; as has already been highlighted in recent media publications there is the ever rumbling issues surrounding Op Tempura, the more recent case of the demoted inspector and the as yet unresolved case of the junior officer alleging an assault against himself by a more senior officer. These three issues alone would suffice to bring about immense scrutiny of the custodians in any other democratic society, but they are in effect only the tip of a very large iceberg.
There is the matter of the Police Law, gazetted in 2010, which makes requirements of the custodians to put in place ‘rules of practice and conduct’, which would govern how they interact with the public they serve. These ‘rules’ have yet to make an appearance over two years down the line. As a result, cases will come before the Grand Court under the Bill of Rights questioning the treatment that persons have had from the custodians. One can only wonder how this correlates with the UK, which coincidentally is signatory to a European Code of Police Ethics and are required to abide by a very strict set of rules under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act.
Could it be that these are merely unfortunate coincidences? Events that conspire to happen within a fairly short time period; or is there something more insidious lurking beneath the smart uniformed exterior?
If one takes the time to speak to some of the many officers who take on the mantle of custodian of the peace, one rapidly realises that there are three distinct cultures thriving and striving within the service. There are the local Caymanian officers, many of whom feel let down and neglected by a service that sees them as a necessity, occasionally promoting one or two into positions of prominence to appear supportive and egalitarian. There are the officers from the other Caribbean jurisdictions, mainly Jamaica, who seem to suffer the brunt of the ‘strangers in a strange land’ jibes from both Caymanian and British expat officers. Finally, there are the British expat officers who themselves are a bit of a mixed bunch. There are those who have come to work hard and make a life for themselves (many of whom also suffer the same jibes as the Jamaican officers), those who view the job as an extended holiday in the sun with the added bonus of ticking that box in the CV and those that have come to build their own little empires in the sun. The common trait amongst these is the general arrogance unique to the British of “knowing what is best”.
This ‘three cultured nightmare’ is at the heart of what ails our custodians; a continuous clash of culture and political brinkmanship played out within an organisation that should work as a team.
The most insidious and dangerous of these groups are the ‘empire builders’, many of whom have come with a policing attitude born out of the 1970s and 80s in the United Kingdom; hierarchical, authoritarian and motivated to build their empire into their own image, with scant regard to the vibrant local culture and traditions because after all, they “know what’s best”. These are the people who seem to be pulling strings and manipulating people and events to suit their own ends, and in so doing, are spreading disenfranchisement and disenchantment amongst our custodians.
With election fever about to break out large here in Cayman, and with the very real prospect of new faces in the Legislative Assembly, perhaps the one question that should be being asked by all and sundry is “Quis custodiet ipsos custodies”? Or as the English might say, “Who watches the watchmen”?