EDITORIAL – The search for our next police commissioner

With Cayman Islands officials about to winnow down the field of candidates for the position of Royal Cayman Islands Police Service commissioner, we think it’s only fair that those applicants enter the interview process with some understanding of what to expect.

(No one, of course, wants a repeat of what happened after the departure of former Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan, when former St. Helena police chief Royce Hipgrave set a local (world?) record for shortest tenured acting police commissioner. He left within 48 hours after arriving in Cayman.)

So without further ado, here’s a primer for potential candidates:

First, the good news. Cayman remains one of the safest places in the Caribbean. The vast majority of residents respect and abide by the rule of law. Our courts and our police are stamped with the imprimatur of the United Kingdom, lending confidence to our law enforcement entities as fair and just institutions.

Nearly all of our individual police officers are diligent and deserving of praise. As we witness on an annual basis at the Outstanding Service Awards, the RCIPS has more than its fair share of bona fide heroes.

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Cayman is a prosperous territory. Our climate is a gift. Our people are friendly. And don’t get us started on the spectacular beauty of Seven Mile Beach. It’s our best recruiting tool.

However, while Cayman may be paradise, remember even Eden had its serpent, apple and all. No place is perfect.

Much work awaits our new commissioner as we actively seek to preserve our well-deserved and well-documented reputation for safety and security.

Cayman’s small criminal element too often operates with impunity, due to the silence of the greater population. The reticence of potential witnesses makes making cases that will lead to successful prosecutions infinitely more difficult.

And then there are the politics.

In the words of outgoing Police Commissioner David Baines, uttered during this year’s police gala, “Anyone who says they have no confidence in the RCIPS either is ill-informed or sees the world through different spectacles than I do. But I’ll leave the politics to the politicians. I’d rather deal with the criminals. That’s a deal I’d do any day of the week.”

Unfortunately, the next police commissioner won’t have the luxury of dealing only with “bad guys” and “good guys.” He or she will also have to negotiate, sweet-talk or maybe even arm-wrestle politicians, bureaucrats and others who may have a grip on RCIPS purse strings or the rudder of public opinion.

Mr. Baines, for one, is leaving his post a year ahead of time because “unfair criticism and defamatory comments [have] undermined his authority to the extent that his leadership of RCIPS is no longer tenable,” according to a March statement from the governor’s office.

That is a serious indictment — but not of Mr. Baines.

At the time, Premier Alden McLaughlin said the hostile — anti-Baines, anti-police, even anti-law-and-order — climate might make it difficult for Cayman to locate a new police commissioner quickly.

But of far greater importance than “when” Cayman finds a new police commissioner is “who” the new police commissioner will be.

We remain of the opinion that Cayman must have the “best” possible person for the job. For us, that means the successful candidate must be well-educated (like David Baines), street-wise (like Stuart Kernohan) and tough (like Derek Haines). He or she should also have a demonstrable track record as an effective manager, and motivator, of large and diverse staffs.

Importantly, the new commissioner should not be an “affirmative action” hire, meaning that gender, color or country of origin should not play any role in the selection process.

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  1. Just throwing out a thought, since it seems like we are going to take some time on deciding the next “Top Cop” could this position be an elected one. In fact I do not see why heads of all these departments, like Customs, Fire department, Environment health, department of environment , airport head and others should not be elected by the public. Maybe this is not a good suggestion, but just asking.

    • Good gravy! This is a very poor idea and would lead to all kinds of problems, not the least of which would be individuals who have no experience what so ever would be elected to sensetive positions, and even the tiniest bit of qualification would fly out the window.

      Understandably, it is hard to accept that it is a UK official who makes these decisions. However, I believe a better approach would be to question the process to determine if there is sufficient local input into the selection. There should be, as it is only fair since Caymanians are the ones who have to live with these decisions, as we are the ones who actually pay for them. History tells us we pay for them in many ways.

  2. Twyla. This is an interesting idea. On the face of it an excellent one.
    In the USA many posts that are appointed here are elected there.

    For example judges, collector of property taxes etc.

    A good friend of mine is actually a judge in Tampa.

    The problem is that these people have to campaign for votes. Campaigning costs money and donations are sought.

    Let’s say a big corporation has made a substantial donation to a judges election campaign and then is plaintiff or defendant in a lawsuit before him. Might they be a little bit biased?

    The same thing could occur with an election for Commissioner of Police.

    Or worse the criminal element could conspire to have one of their own elected.