Police increase armed patrols

More armed police officers have been put on regular patrol shifts to start 2016 as part of a police department reorganization.

The reordering involves a change in all police officers’ working shifts that the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service brass hopes will bring “predictability and greater capacity for planning” with regard to policing activities.

“The new shift pattern also increases the number of officers on each shift, enabling us to manage workloads and calls for service more easily,” RCIPS Chief Superintendent Kurt Walton said.

Uniform Support Group officers respond to a call in September 2015. Some USG officers have been put on regular patrol shifts this year as part of a police department reorganization. - Photo: Taneos Ramsay
Uniform Support Group officers respond to a call in September 2015. Some USG officers have been put on regular patrol shifts this year as part of a police department reorganization. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

The changes involve taking a certain number of police officers from the specialist armed unit, known as the Uniform Support Group, or USG, and putting them on regular patrols. Mr. Walton said the specialist USG unit will be maintained, in addition to the increased armed patrols in Grand Cayman’s districts.

Mr. Walton said police trained additional officers in firearms proficiency in 2015, anticipating the move would occur.

“We cannot comment on when or where armed units will specifically be stationed for operational security reasons,” he said. “What we have done differently is decentralize the USG by attaching armed officers to shifts island-wide. At the same time, we have retained a number of armed officers within the USG.

“This reordering and additional training enables us to cover the island more comprehensively, in general, and reduces response times of armed officers,” Mr. Walton said.

Armed police responses, while previously available around the clock, have raised some concerns about response times. The issue was discussed in the Legislative Assembly as far back as 2010, when RCIPS Deputy Commissioner Stephen Brougham announced plans to train an additional 24 armed police officers.

The assembly debate occurred shortly after the high-profile armed robbery of Mostyn’s Esso [now Sol Petroleum] station in Bodden Town. North Side MLA Ezzard Miller said that a “failure” to have weapons in all police cars led to the first responding officers having to wait at a police protective cordon near the scene.

Eventually, the robbery suspects were tracked down; one of them was arrested by an unarmed police officer who received a police commissioner’s commendation for his work on the case.

With regard to Mr. Miller’s comments, Mr. Brougham confirmed the MLA’s description was consistent with RCIPS policy. “[The officers] would be told to sit at a cordon point,” he said.

“And watch the guy run off into the bushes?” Mr. Miller asked.

Mr. Brougham said at the time that another 24 armed officers would be trained, but how they were to be deployed was not certain.

Police Commissioner David Baines has said many times that he does not wish to arm all RCIPS officers for fear that individuals in the community would begin to view them as an “occupation force” and refuse to speak with them or give them assistance in criminal investigations.

Shift change

The RCIPS had been using a five-shift system in which all regular patrol officers worked six days and had four days off.

That has been changed to a three-shift, eight-hour workday system, in which officers work six consecutive days and then have three days off.

All police officers will work eight hours in any given day, as opposed to the previous shift in which officers might have worked anywhere from eight to 12 hours per shift.

In addition to increasing the number of officers on any given shift, the new system also reduces an officer’s time away from work, which can interfere with developing information in ongoing investigations, police said.

The eight-hour workdays mean there will be three “shift changes” during any 24-hour period. Police said the new deployment plans allows for extra officers during “peak hours.”