Repeated calls for more police to patrol Grand Cayman’s eastern districts led senior police officers to reveal Monday night that officers in all of the islands’ districts are short-staffed.
Royal Cayman Islands Police Superintendent Angelique Howell and Chief Inspector Brad Ebanks told a small crowd attending a Bodden Town public meeting that staff levels on any given shift at the local police station currently stand at five officers and one sergeant.
“How long can we just have five officers?” a woman at the meeting asked. “Bodden Town is the fastest growing district; why aren’t we demanding more police in the eastern districts?”
Chief Inspector Ebanks noted that the six officers, including the sergeant, per shift in Bodden Town is more than the three or four the station used to maintain and is not too far from the average police staffing in George Town.
Typical shift staffing in the George Town Police Station, the largest and busiest on Grand Cayman, is one inspector, one sergeant and seven police constables for a total of nine.
Superintendent Howell said the George Town Police Station receives about 400 calls for service per week, whereas Bodden Town receives about 70 to 80 calls per week.
“For a district that has five times as many calls, they only have a few more officers,” Mr. Ebanks said.
Staffing at the West Bay Police Station is now at one sergeant and four police officers, Ms. Howell said, and the station receives roughly the same number of calls each week as Bodden Town. “Everywhere is short [staffed],” Superintendent Howell said.
In early December, the RCIPS had a total of 388 uniformed officers on staff and an additional 61 volunteer special constables who can be used in certain policing roles, according to figures provided by the department.
A steady effort to increase local police staffing has been under way since 2011. The department went from 364 total uniformed officers to 408 in mid-2013, not counting special constables. According to the most recent population estimates, the current number of officers in the RCIPS works out to about one police officer per 148 people living in the Cayman Islands.
That figure is well above the United Nations recommendations for “minimum police strength” in a jurisdiction, which puts the number at one officer per 450 people.
Yet combining the districts of George Town, Bodden Town and West Bay, total police staffing “on the street” during any given shift period – based on the numbers provided Monday by Chief Inspector Howell – is 20 per shift: nine in George Town, six in Bodden Town and five in West Bay.
RCIPS Superintendent Adrian Seales said in December that it was important to note the standard police patrol function is only one of the myriad responsibilities the police force maintains. During day shifts, officers are assigned to neighborhood policing and they process service functions from the court as well. They also must staff the Cayman Brac and Little Cayman police stations on a daily basis.
In addition, the police service staffs no fewer than 11 specialist departments, including: the Drugs and Serious Crime Task Force, the Family Support Unit, the Financial Crime Unit, the Joint Intelligence Unit, the Criminal Investigation Unit, the Uniform Support Group, the Operational Support Group, the K-9 police unit, the Air Support Unit, the Joint Marine Task Force and the Cold Crimes Unit.
Chief Inspector Ebanks sums it up this way: “We have a hundred things to do and everybody wants it yesterday.”
Superintendent Howell urged the 15 or so residents who attended the Bodden Town Civic Centre meeting to get involved with the police service through volunteer efforts. Even the most mundane tasks, she said, would help put more cops on the streets.
“You know where you can help us? Right at that front desk to answer calls,” Ms. Howell told the audience. “I will give you my word that we will work with you. If you come to us right now and you say ‘I would like to work with the police department and stay in Bodden Town,’ I will take you.”