Opposition lawmakers took the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service to task Thursday for what they alleged was an attempt to “hide” and to “lie” to the public regarding the theft of drugs from the George Town Police Station this summer.
After initially reporting that nothing had been taken in a July 13 break-in outside the police station, the RCIPS confirmed in September that “a quantity” of illegal drugs were taken from an evidence container there. The container was used to store “old evidence” and “drugs awaiting disposal,” police said at the time.
The police also stated in September that the “actions of those responsible” for following evidence handling and storage procedures at the police station would be reviewed.
Under formal questioning by Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson revealed that 24 kilograms of cocaine and 33 kilograms of ganja had been stolen from the container.
Mr. Manderson indicated that the drugs were not intended to be used as “evidence” in any ongoing investigation, but had been set aside for destruction at the earliest opportunity after having washed ashore. He noted arrests have been made in connection with the July 13 theft and that further police warrants would be issued in connection with the case in the near future.
“This matter is being taken very seriously,” the deputy governor said.
Mr. Bush expressed public doubts about that.
“The machinery of the police organization seems to have taken this matter quite lightly,” Mr. Bush said. “When this matter came to [the] fore, they said it wasn’t true and, lo and behold, it was exposed by the media that it had happened.
“All that hiding – that’s what I’m calling it – has come to [the] fore,” Mr. Bush said. “There’s an acceptance that it happened, there’s an acceptance that these quantities of drugs were stolen. This is a tremendous amount of drugs that were stolen.
“What is the government doing about it? What has been done as far as any kind of reprimand? If this had been a local person, you can believe there would have been a lot of noise … going on.”
“This man [referring to Police Commissioner David Baines] stood there and lied to us all and said nothing was stolen,” Deputy Opposition Leader Bernie Bush said.
Deputy Governor Manderson said the critical comments by McKeeva Bush and Bernie Bush were not fair to police commanders who were doing their best to solve the theft and sort out security at the police station.
“I think it’s unfair to say the commissioner ‘lied’ about the drugs not being stolen,” Mr. Manderson replied. “That’s an operational decision … when he gives out information to the public, that’s a matter for him. Sometimes we can’t tell the public everything when they want to know.
“This is an attack on the police, an attack on our security services. The governor, myself, the commissioner of police, are doing all we can to ensure that the persons involved in this have been brought to justice.”
While not going into specifics, Mr. Manderson noted that there have long been concerns regarding the adequacy of the police station in George Town, including security concerns.
“A lot of the safeguards that were put in place to prevent this from happening … didn’t work,” he said. “There are alarm systems, there is a strict procedure that any drugs found must be destroyed immediately.”