The fuel budget for police service marine patrols has been slashed by nearly three-quarters from what it was four years ago, according to the department’s chief of operations.
“In 2009, we had a budget for border protection, for fuel, of $600,000-plus,” said Kurt Walton, chief superintendent of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. “Today [in the proposed 2013/14 budget] that is down to $155,000. That’s almost a 300-400 percent reduction in our border protection.”
Mr. Walton, speaking during a press conference earlier this week, noted that there had been a corresponding increase in the police service’s forensics budget from 2009 – from $300,000 to a proposed $500,000 in the government’s current budget plan.
“Necessary, absolutely necessary because we have to explore all forensic opportunities to give us the best chance of success,” he said. “We rely heavily on forensics. “But do we cut our border protection?” The senior police officer gave voice to a concern that has often been flagged by Police Commissioner David Baines in recent years.
“I’ll take you back to 2009 when we had a budget of $36 million and today we’ve been given [$35 million],” Mr. Walton said. “It may seem like a lot of money … but $28 million of it is actually paying officers. The rest of that has to go toward, like any other business [is] run: Utilities must be paid, leases must be paid, janitorial services must be paid.”
In addition to not having the ideal budget, the recent series of murders and armed robberies in Grand Cayman has thinned the police ranks in other ways, Mr. Walton said.
“We’ve got officers from a cross-section of units that have been basically pulled into the murder investigation teams,” he said.
In 2012, the police service had some 410 uniformed officers, not counting volunteer special constables or civilian employees – a record number for the Cayman Islands.
However, Mr. Walton said the RCIPS is battling a problem of attrition as well. With some 30 officers having retired or ended their contracts, the number of available officers has fallen to 396, according to the department. The RCIPS is seeking to bring in 12 to 15 new local recruits to bolster their ranks.
“There’s this perception that … we have 396 or 400 police officers and what are they doing? You need to appreciate the demands on the police service,” Mr. Walton said. “We don’t just have 400 officers in police cars.
“There’s intelligence units, there’s the marine unit, there’s legislation that mandates us to have units such as security/firearms licensing. We manage tobacco legislation, now we’ve been asked to manage the most recent legislation, the second-hand dealers bill [to regulate pawn shops].
“We’re expected to be a coast guard. We are the defense force – the police force of the Cayman Islands.”
The government minister now responsible for the funding of the police service, Home Affairs Minister and Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin, said his ministry would be taking more direct responsibility for the police service than has been seen in the past with the elected arm of government.
“I do not intend to hide behind the usual constitutional provision … to say that this is a matter for Her Excellency [the governor] and that the elected government can’t do very much more than vote the budgets,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “I intend to put my hand up … and say I have real responsibility for what transpires in my country, and that includes what happens on the crime front and what happens in relation to internal security.
“My acceptance of that level of responsibility means that the elected government will have a real say and influence in what transpires with respect to internal security. It will not, and cannot, be limited to us simply being asked to vote for money in a vacuum.”