Police: Funding for marine patrol slashed

Marine police boat with Cubans lead

 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.” 

Marine police boat with Cubans

The police service marine patrol boat Niven D. intercepts a boatload of Cuban migrants in May. – Photo: File
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5 COMMENTS

  1. 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.

    You can’t reduce anything more that 100%… jus’ sayn

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  2. My greatest of respect for our premier and all the others who his Cabinet, but I consider a a very serious to cut funding for Marine patrol. So who are we going to look to to keep our borders safe from illegal activities, especially the gun running. Each day we criticize the police officers until their spirit is worn thin, yet we expect that we should sleep peacefully at nights while they put their lives on the line to keep our business, homes and our lives safe. It is so sad that when a crime is committed, the first thing on our lips is What is the police doing Yes we may have some not so good police, but we got some not so good milk in our refrigerator too.
    I do not expect a police officer to be super human, where they should be psychic about who did this and who did that. It is the people’s responsibility to assist the police and make sure they are fed properly, living properly and being in a comfortable position to protect our businesses and our shores. If every day we are going to criticize the police and take away their strength what should we expect, but crime and more crime. I support the police force because they protect and serve us, and if there is one body of persons we stand up for should be the police; and in all areas of the force. It is so very serious that the Marine police will not be in a position to cover our waters because of budget cuts. It is so very sad, and I do hope the Governor realize what has been taking place on this Island. Support your police force.

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