Editorial: Cayman's crime wave:
 Don't blame Baines

Much of what influences and informs public discourse is perception, often formed (and fueled) by articles in the newspaper or stories broadcast on television and radio. Perceptions are then invariably re-enforced and repeated by others on our so-called “Marl Road,” and, sure enough, soon the whole country is abuzz about one matter or another.

At the moment, the topic of the day, understandably, is crime – murders, home invasions, burglaries, hold-ups, and a whole array of other antisocial mayhem.

Not surprisingly, with the list of crime victims growing, the public often looks for another victim – namely someone to blame, and understandably the most convenient target is always the person at the top, in this instance Police Commissioner David Baines.

In fact, Commissioner Baines reportedly is returning early from his vacation (Heavens knows he must need one) to take control personally of the deteriorating conditions on the street and the increasing anxiety among the populace.

While this is probably a wise public relations move (in a fishbowl society, optics are everything), it is unlikely to change very much.

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After all, as cartoonist Walt Kelly reminded us in his Pogo comic strip, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

In fact, police can never be particularly effective in preventing crime. Their performance must be measured after the crime has taken place: the proficiency with which they gather evidence, interview witnesses, and ultimately make sustainable arrests.

But just because the police can’t do much to prevent crime, it doesn’t follow that they can’t do anything. They can.

One potential deterrent is to make themselves visible in neighborhoods that are prone to crime. That means getting out of their cars, walking around, interacting with the community and, most importantly, developing sources.

A refrain we’ve been hearing for years in this country is, “Where are the police?” If optics indeed count, a visible police presence is the ultimate optic.

We would also encourage the commissioner to revisit – no, actually to revamp top to bottom – his department’s communications strategy. Because the RCIPS withholds so much information from the public (too often on the one-phrase-fits-all excuse, “We don’t want to jeopardize an ongoing investigation”), the perception is that the police don’t trust the public – or that they’re hiding something. We can assure the commissioner that if the police don’t trust the public, the public will never trust the police – and currently too often they don’t.

Although the police are the most visible enforcers of the law, it is important to remember they form only one side of the law-and-order triad, the other two being prosecutors and judges. Certainty of timely arrests, prosecution and punishment is the most effective deterrent to crime. 

Aggressive prosecutions and timely trials are essential to a well-functioning legal system, and one obvious example both makes our point and raises our concerns:

We are still dismayed that the allegations facing former Premier McKeeva Bush have been dragging on for nearly four years, limping along from an interminable investigation, leaked information, a subsequent arrest, multiple police and court appearances, delays and postponements. The trial, should it ever take place, is now set for September 2014 – nearly a year from now.

To us, Mr. Bush’s case is “Exhibit A” that all three sides of the criminal justice triad need serious attention.

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  1. And I suppose the captain is not responsible for the ship, nor the pilot responsible for the plane. Now that we have established these facts, can someone then please inform us who exactly is using the vast resources of the RCIPS.

  2. When you have a leader that did not care about crime and people continue to elect him what more is there to say? Crime was a major problem in his district and it was ignored and while he traveled abroad and quarreled at home with responsible political leaders, it spread throughout the country. We now have a more engaged leader that will move crime to the front of his agenda and we will see the difference. I don’t understand why our politicians would make a man that doesn’t care about crime leader of the opposition in our parliament and that’s the 64,000 question that needs to be answered?

  3. Dennie Warren Jr: Mr Baines has NOT ‘disarmed law abiding residents’ – the law of the cayman Islands, as passed but YOUR elected representatives does that and this is enforced by the courts system.
    But, hey, let’s not let a little thing like the truth of facts get in the way of a good old rant.

  4. John Ashley, the Commissioner of Police’s anti-private firearm views have been publicly confirmed by Mr. Baines himself. The current firearms law does not require that law-abiding residents be disarmed, but the CoP is enforcing the law in accordance with his personal bias against private firearms ownership. He especially dislikes that residents are allowed to use their firearms in accordance with Section 18(1)(a) of the Firearms Law for protection, which reads: ‘No person shall discharge any firearm on or within forty yards of any public road or in any public place except in the lawful protection of his person or property or of the person or property of some other person’. Regarding our local politicians, Thomas Jefferson said: ‘The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.’

  5. With reference to your comment that all three sides of the criminal justice triad need serious attention, as far as the Courts are concerned your Exhibit A does not quite hold water. The Cayman Court holds firmly to the view that justice delayed is justice denied; in this case some scheduling leeway was allowed to enable the defence to prepare its case. The Court permitted this latitude given the serious implications of the case and the fact that no restrictions have been placed on the freedom and rights of the party to the case.

    The Cayman Court continues to hold a trial disposal rate on par with the best despite the current shortage of court space in the face of rising demand. The Court hopes that the resources for the expansion plans, on the drawing table for a number of years now, will materialize in the not too distant future.

  6. Dennie Warren: The Commissioner of Police acts within the laws as made by your representatives and if anyone dosagrees with his actions they can challenge this by way of Judicial review in the courts.
    Therefore, whatever Mr Baines’ personal or professional views may be, he must act within the law and be accountable to the law.

  7. John Ashly, I would say that Mr. David Baines SHOULD act within the law, but saying that he ‘MUST act within the law’ suggest the hallowed esteem in which you hold him. Here is one example of why I feel otherwise. According to the Form F (Application to renew a firearms licence) in the Firearms Regulations which can only be made or amended by the elected Ministers of Cabinet, the prescribed version in the Regulations reads: Description of firearm for which the licence is required, but on the RCIPS website the CoP’s version reads: Description of firearm for which the permit is required Would you please share with us the section of the Law which allows for a ‘Permit’ to be renewed?

  8. Oh Dear Dennie Warren – such a horrendous error must mean that Baines is sacked immediately!
    If my memory serves, the Firearms law uses both words – licence and permit – and in the case of the form you refer to the heading Application Form to Renew a Firearms Licence is quite clear.
    However, you are absolutely right – this is an error and I would suggest you a) make a formal complaint to the RCIPS using the form you will find alongside the Firearms Licence Renewal Form on the RCIPS website and b) copy that complaint to the Governor.
    I notice, also, that the renewal form also states I understand that the RCIPS reserves the right to inspect my safe, firearm and ammunition before my licence is renewed..
    As you are so au fait with the 1999 Firearms Regulations, perhaps you can tell us if this is allowed on the prescribed form?
    As for your discussion around ‘should’ and ‘must’ I would say that the Chief Officer of Police MUST act within the law as to not do so will leave him open to legal challenge, as it does for any police officer who has sworn to uphold the law. Of course, we know that not all police officers do comply with every law but that does not remove the requirement for them to do so.
    Therefore I stick with my ‘must’.
    BTW: I do not know Mr Baines and I hold the ‘office of Commissioner of Police’ in hallowed esteem and expect that any holder of that office would act within the law at all times. If any failed to do so I would expect them to face the full weight of the law against them.
    That is the basis of my earlier post where I clearly state that whatever Mr Baines, the person, may think or believe, as Commissioner of Police he MUST act within the law.

  9. Ah, Mr Warren – now I understand. An archive search of the Compass is so enlightening!

    In 2011 a judge said your application for a judicial review was misconceived and really quite unfounded.

    The Judge said the Firearms Law gave the commissioner absolute discretion whether or not to grant licences. He said it was plain that the Commissioner must be satisfied that the circumstances are such that it is appropriate for a licence be granted, having regard to the public interest. He concluded that Mr. Warren’s application had to fail and it was accordingly dismissed. (Cayman Compass 11th November 2011)

    It would further appear that the Complaints Commissioner decided in 2010 that the Commissioner of Police could make unilateral changes to the form which means that the ‘error’ (which may or may not be a mistake) means nothing.

    Can I suggest that after 3 years you move on?

  10. John Ashley, I simply want the CoP to obey the law.

    There is only one type of ‘Licence’ defined in the Firearms Law and that is the ‘Firearms User’s (Restricted) License’. There are several types of permits (Import, Export, Disposal), but those permits all mean very different things from the ‘licence’. One characteristic being that no permit can be renewed, while licences can be renewed. If the change of wording from ‘licence’ to ‘permit’ is really so insignificant, why would the Commissioner of Police make such an insignificant change in wording then?

    I did make formal complaints about a number of issues regarding firearms forms, not just the one above, but the CoP did not agree. So I also complained to the Complaints Commissioner. However, since you feel that I’m correct about the licence and permit wording example, what else is the CoP wrong about?

    Section 20(b) of the Firearms Law reads: ‘Every application for any licence or permit SHALL be in the PRESCRIBED form’. The Firearm Forms correctly being published on the RCIPS website are NOT the prescribed versions of the respective forms.

    In short, here is why CoP Mr. David Baines, does not have the authority to amend the Firearms Regulations:

    Section 43 of the Firearms Law reads: ‘The Governor may make regulations for the better carrying out of this Law and, in particular, but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, for prescribing anything required or permitted by this Law to be prescribed.’ In Section 2(1) of the Firearms Law, ‘Governor’ means the Governor in Cabinet. Section 3(1), paragraph 22 of the Interpretation Law (1995 Revision) reads: ‘Governor in Council’ means the Governor acting in accordance with the advice of the Executive Council of the Islands.

    Section 27(a) of the Interpretation Law reads: ‘Where a Law confers power on any authority to make or issue regulations, the following provisions shall, unless the contrary intention appears, have effect with reference to the making, issue and operation of such regulations – a regulation may, at any time, be amended, varied, suspended, rescinded or revoked by the SAME authority and in the SAME manner by and in which it was made’. Section 3(1), paragraph 45 of the Interpretation Law reads: ‘regulations’ include rules, bye-laws, proclamations, orders, schemes, notifications, directions, notices and FORMS’.

    Section 3(1), paragraph 37 of the Interpretation Law reads: ‘prescribed’ means prescribed by the Law in which the word occurs or by any regulations made thereunder, and, in relation to any regulations, where no other authority is empowered in that behalf in the Law, prescribed by the Governor in Council.’ Since Firearms Regulations are made in Cabinet, only Cabinet can lawfully amend them.

    The above makes it clear that the Commissioner of Police has usurped the authority of Cabinet when he amended and caused to be published his versions other than the prescribed forms. With all due respect, usurping the authority of Cabinet is no SMALL matter.

    Just because Mr. Baines has a personal bias against lawful private firearm ownership, that doesn’t give him unilaterally authority to amend the Firearms Law and Regulations. Again, will you please answer my question and share with us which section of the law authorizes the CoP to make Firearm Regulations?

  11. Your answer to your question is not one for me to determine but the judiciary and those who hold judicial powers in the Islands. The Office of Complaints Commissioner has made a ruling and I am not going to argue with that.

    Were I to believe that was wrong I should apply for a judicial review – even the OCC is not above the law.

    That is where you should seek your answer.

  12. John Ashley, I didn’t ask you to argue against the OCC, instead my question is asking you to argue in favor of the CoP and to share with us which law gives the CoP the power to amend the firearm forms which are prescribed in the Firearm Law Regulations.