Cayman Islands Governor Helen Kilpatrick announced the departure of Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines by the end of May in a surprise public statement Tuesday afternoon.
The departure will come a year before the end of Mr. Baines’s contract, which expires on May 31, 2017.
“The recent barrage of unfair criticism and defamatory comments has undermined the commissioner’s authority to the extent that his leadership of the RCIPS is no longer tenable,” Governor Kilpatrick’s statement read. “The commissioner continues to have my support and will do so until he leaves his post.”
Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis will take over as acting commissioner until a new commissioner is appointed through a recruitment process.
“I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the dedicated service that Commissioner Baines has given to the Cayman Islands over the last seven years,” Governor Kilpatrick’s statement continued. “Crime statistics show that over this period the Cayman Islands have remained amongst the safest communities in the Caribbean. In addition to leading the RCIPS with professionalism, Commissioner Baines has made a significant contribution to policing in the wider Caribbean through his chairmanship of the Caribbean Chiefs of Police group and his leadership of work on firearms and gun crime for all of the Caribbean Overseas Territories.
“Ensuring the security of the Cayman Islands is a responsibility we all share. The RCIPS needs and deserves the support of our community to do their vital work.”
Mr. Baines will receive “what he is entitled to” under the remainder of his contract, according to the governor’s statement.
Commissioner Baines, contacted by the Cayman Compass late Tuesday afternoon, declined to elaborate on the governor’s statement.
Tuesday’s announcement came against the backdrop of two legislative motions that concern the effectiveness and management of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. Both motions are scheduled to be heard in an emergency Legislative Assembly meeting set for April 13.
East End MLA Arden McLean’s motion seeks an independent review of police management practices in which he says lawmakers have a “lack of confidence” following a litany of complaints over the past few months, and further seeks the installment of a Caymanian police commissioner.
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush’s motion requests an independent review of the police response to an incident on March 6 in which five Caymanian boaters – including two children – went missing and have not been found.
The emergency legislative meeting was confirmed Tuesday by Speaker of the House Juliana O’Connor-Connolly’s office. It was due to be held 12 days before the assembly’s regularly scheduled meeting on April 25.
Premier Alden McLaughlin criticized the opposition members in a statement late Tuesday.
“It is unfortunate that the recent motions filed by members of the opposition in the House concerning policing have put us in this predicament,” said Mr. McLaughlin. “Essentially, government is going to have to pay Mr. Baines for the remainder of his contract while the Cayman Islands has no commissioner of police in place and, given the reaction of the opposition to Mr. Baines, we may find ourselves in difficulty in filling the role quickly.”
Mr. McLaughlin continued, “Additionally, with Deputy Commissioner Stephen Brougham scheduled to leave the service in September, leadership of the RCIPS will present a real challenge until these vacancies in two of the top three positions are filled.
“Although the irresponsible actions of the opposition have made the task more difficult, the government will continue to support the RCIPS, Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis who will act as commissioner in the interim and work with Her Excellency to ensure that the Cayman Islands remains one of the safest and most secure jurisdictions in the world.”
Mr. Bush was adamant Tuesday afternoon, following the announcement regarding Mr. Baines’s departure, that the emergency meeting would still be held next month.
“Of course, it is still happening, there are matters that we need to expose,” he said. Mr. Bush indicated he supported the appointment of Deputy Commissioner Ennis as acting commissioner.
Mr. McLean was noncommittal about his intentions regarding the April 13 meeting, in light of Mr. Baines’s departure. He had jointly called for an emergency meeting of the assembly, along with Mr. Bush and Bodden Town MLA Alva Suckoo, during a press conference last week.
Premier McLaughlin said last week that he believed there was no need to hold an emergency meeting to hear the two private members’ motions.
The premier had agreed to hear the issues during the regular legislative meeting.
However, the ultimate decision whether to hold the emergency meeting is the purview of the Speaker of the House, according to constitutional and parliamentary rules. Ms. O’Connor-Connolly is off island and was unable to preside over the meeting any sooner than mid-April. She could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Premier McLaughlin has suggested that an eight-member opposition bench, consisting of three members from Mr. Bush’s Cayman Islands Democratic Party and five independent members, would not be able to hold a meeting due to a lack of a quorum unless at least two other members of the government bench showed up. In that scenario, Mr. McLaughlin said one member of the government could show up and object to the House meeting with fewer than a majority of 10 members and no meeting could be held.
Mr. Bush said he was disappointed that the emergency meeting could not be held this week, as he had requested. He also disagreed with Mr. McLaughlin’s legal interpretation regarding how many members are required to hold an assembly meeting.
“We say otherwise,” Mr. Bush said.
Mr. McLaughlin accused his longtime political rival of playing politics with the motion regarding the disappearance of the boaters.
“It is regrettable that the loss of five Caymanians at sea is being seized upon as an opportunity by the opposition to score political points,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
With regard to the police management issues, the premier said his administration was concerned about “recent failures” on a “range of matters.”
“We believe a review of the services is necessary to address these issues,” said Mr. McLaughlin. “However, as a society, we cannot blame crime on the police service as a whole or on any individual within the service. Criminality is a problem of society and its causes are complex.”
Last week, Governor Kilpatrick released a rare public statement unequivocally backing Mr. Baines, who has served as RCIPS commissioner since June 2009. Mr. Baines had previously indicated he would not seek an extension to his contract.