In a laboratory, there are certain chemicals that, individually, are benign or even beneficial — but, when combined, create nitroglycerine. In the real world, two such substances are politics and policing.
Politicians have no business infringing on the duties of police officers. Such encroachment is invariably dangerous.
That is precisely why the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service is under the auspices of the Office of the Governor, and not the premier, the leader of the opposition or the Legislative Assembly at large.
The pair of parliamentary motions seeking independent reviews of the police — and which have engendered the planned early departure of Police Commissioner David Baines — are political pandering to the proverbial lowest common denominator.
It is disconcerting, at the least, that during a time when high-profile, even cavalier, crime seems to be on the increase — involving violence, drugs and/or guns — voices of prominent public figures are not ringing out against those committing the criminal acts, but are leading a braying chorus against a symbolic figure of criminal justice.
Mr. Baines’s departure is a loss for the Cayman Islands — and a victory for inappropriate parochial politics.
If lawmakers were serious about addressing issues of crime in this country, their upcoming “emergency” session would be focused on stopping the criminal elements of society and strengthening the police. Instead, they are set to discuss “police methodology of administration,” the desired nationality of the future police commissioner, and the appropriateness of the police response to five missing boaters (which, from all available evidence, appears to have been entirely appropriate).
Then there’s the rambling assortment of accusations being flung at Mr. Baines by West Bay MLA Bernie Bush, via a formal complaint lodged with local and British authorities.
Regardless of our readers’ political orientations or personal opinions about Mr. Baines, how many truly believe that Mr. Baines’s early departure, and the resulting vacuum in leadership, will: a) make Cayman safer; b) improve police performance; or c) make criminals in our country feel less secure?
The answer is probably close to zero.
According to a statement from Governor Helen Kilpatrick, “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.”
It didn’t have to come to this. The truth is this governor and past governors have never fulfilled their duties as overseers of the RCIPS — either behind the scenes or on center stage — in terms of setting the standard for law enforcement in our islands.
We remain baffled by how organized crime — the numbers game, the drug trade and the smuggling of weapons — can continue to be hidden “in plain sight” in Cayman, with nary a word from the succession of governors who have allowed this to happen under their watches.
At the street level, a “culture of silence” pervades our society, where 50 people can witness the occurrence of a crime, yet when it comes to talking to police, “nobody’s seen nuthin’.” Effective law enforcement is almost impossible under these circumstances.
Those problems can’t be solved simply by appointing a Caymanian police commissioner. When we’re seeking out the next person to lead our police, we need to recruit and hire the best person — period.
The consequences of doing otherwise are enormous, and explosive.