Deputy Governor: Public safety 'number one' priority

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service staff increased by about six percent at a time when the overall civil service shrank by nine percent, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson said Friday.

Mr. Manderson was responding to comments made last week about difficulties the government was supposedly encountering while hiring police officers that were discussed during proceedings of the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee.

Between June 2008 and June 2014, during the period of the civil service “soft hiring freeze” implemented by government, central government head count has reduced from 3,904 to 3,571 employees, Mr. Manderson said.

During the same six year period, police service staff increased from 423 employees in 2008 to 449 employees in 2014.

“This trend confirms that public safety has remained a number one priority of the civil service,” Mr. Manderson said.

Last week, Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines stated that he had 487 jobs in the RCIPS, both civilian and police, representing the total positions provided in his department’s budget for the upcoming 2015/16 year. At the moment, RCIPS is only employing 450 people. It is unclear whether all of the those jobs will be filled because, at various times in a budget year, the government will give directives for the “freezing” of current job vacancies in order to save money.

“I will be in the region of $1.9 million underspent on my budget this year [referring to the 2014/15 budget year that ends in June], not because I didn’t want to spend it, but due to various bureaucratic procedures that prevent the quick advertisement and replacement of positions that become vacant by retiring or leaving staff,” Mr. Baines told the Cayman Compass. “The police and other agencies that have a significant expat workforce get disproportionately hit by this moratorium on appointments as it is the short-term contract[s] that are subjected to most churn and are most affected by freezes.”

Mr. Manderson said that in the current 2014/15 budget year, the RCIPS submitted 146 “exemption requests” to the moratorium committee, which the deputy governor chairs, to either fill existing positions or review fixed term contracts of non-Caymanian staff. Mr. Manderson said, where the officer has performed satisfactorily, officers are automatically reappointed for three years.

All requests to the moratorium committee by the RCIPS during the current year were approved, expect for three civilian employee posts which do not qualify for automatic contract renewal.

The police service has it easier than the rest of the civil service, Mr. Manderson said, where even specialist positions on fixed term contracts are only renewed for two years at a time. Even then, those posts are granted only after the department advertises the position, to determine whether there are qualified Caymanians available for the post.

“The moratorium committee’s work is not arbitrary, nor does it constitute micromanagement,” Mr. Manderson said. “The government previously practiced a complete devolution of financial controls to individual agencies and the data confirms this approach resulted in wanton growth.”

Mr. Manderson said he “wholeheartedly” supported the RCIPS and the other uniform branches of government.

“I will continue to support their recruitment efforts which are compliant with the budget and which afford suitably qualified Caymanians the opportunity to pursue careers in those fields,” he said.