When a tragedy occurs, a natural reaction is to look for reasons … then, failing that — to look for scapegoats.
This is precisely what we see taking place in the case of the five boaters who went missing at sea last Sunday, March 6, and who are now presumed to have died. Unfortunately, a significant number of people in the community have determined to turn this occasion of mourning into a rallying cry against the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, who, in their efforts to locate the missing boaters, appear to be deserving of praise, not condemnation.
Our thoughts remain with the family and friends of the missing boaters, particularly the parents of 11-year-old Kamron Brown and 9-year-old Kanyi Brown.
Why did this tragedy happen? We have no adequate answers. But, based on the facts we do have, we can tell you this much: It wasn’t the fault of police.
It is most regrettable that some of our colleagues have abdicated their duties as responsible members of the media by stoking emotions of anger, resentment and vengeance, and directing them against the police. They should remember that a journalist’s obligation to the community is to inform — not to incite.
Some have alleged that police were reluctant to launch a search immediately upon learning of the missing boaters because boat operator Gary Mullings (the uncle of Kamron and Kanyi) was well-known to law enforcement as a major drug trafficker. Others have accused Police Commissioner David Baines of not valuing Caymanian lives, generally.
The evidence at hand does not support either of those vicious conjectures. Rather, all indications are that the police response was professional, appropriate and effective — although the results were not what anyone would have wanted.
Let’s quickly review the time line of events. More details are contained in today’s story and in previous articles from the past week.
Sunday, March 6, 3 p.m.-4 p.m.: A fisherman spots Mr. Mullings’s 28-foot Panga-style boat around six miles off the coast of Grand Cayman, with only one of its two engines operating. Weather conditions are worsening.
3:41 p.m.: A cellphone on the boat experiences a “catastrophic disruption.” Police believe this is when the boat may have overturned.
11:57 p.m.: Police are notified of the missing boaters. At this time, Commissioner Baines is not on duty; he does not learn about the missing boat until Monday morning. Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis, who is a Caymanian, makes the (correct) call not to deploy the police helicopter or marine vessels for a variety of reasons, including the broadness of the potential search area, limited helicopter capabilities, rough seas and extremely poor flying conditions.
Monday, March 7, 8:30 a.m.: Following investigations that narrow down the search area, police mobilize boats and aircraft.
10:33 a.m.: The police helicopter spots the capsized boat. There is no sign of debris or the missing boaters.
Tuesday, March 8: The boat is recovered by police. Throughout the remainder of the week, police, volunteers and extra-jurisdictional agencies continue searching for the missing boaters, without success.
After drawing fire on the radio, in the blogosphere and from Opposition politicians, Commissioner Baines asked Governor Helen Kilpatrick to set up an independent review of the police response. She agreed.
Now, the police aren’t perfect. Investigators may find potential areas for improvement in regard to this particular situation. In any process of split-second decision-making amid a complex series of unknowns — things can and do go wrong.
That being said, Commissioner Baines is confident that the investigation will exonerate the actions of his officers. We share that confidence, and we support our police.