Commissioner: We do not need more police

Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service does not need any more officers to be effective, Acting Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis said last week.

However, the organization does need to stop using police officers on what should be non-law enforcement tasks, the acting commissioner said.

“I think we have sufficient personnel to get the job done if we can … get rid of a lot of the things that do not require a police officer to do,” Mr. Ennis said.

As of June 30, there were 366 uniformed officers, including auxiliary constables but not including special [volunteer] constables and civilian support staff in the RCIPS. Mr. Ennis said the department has been given the budget to hire 24 officers, some of whom will be recruited through a police cadet class starting in January.

RCIPS officers currently do everything from serving witness summons for court cases, to licensing private firearms owners and inspecting their weapons, to licensing private security companies, to responding to non-injury traffic accidents.

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Chief Superintendent Kurt Walton said Thursday that the public may look at recently released crime statistics and see that 1,700 crimes had been reported and recorded by the RCIPS over the past six months. “In reality, that’s only a percentage of what we do daily,” he said. “We respond to 2,300 calls for service a month.”

Police respond to calls that include civil disputes between landlords and tenants, family issues and false alarms. Mr. Walton and Mr. Ennis said government could cut down on the “extra” work officers have in a significant number of areas in order to free up more of them for patrols and community policing.


The RCIPS receives about 9,000 court witness summons each year – 173 per week – which, by law, uniformed police officers must serve.

The witness summons are not warrants, which are dealt with separately and in many cases would have to be handled by police officers for safety reasons, Mr. Walton said. The witness summons are to get individuals who are providing testimony to court on the correct date.

“Every witness summons the director of public prosecutions needs … we serve those summons,” he said. “Every customs case, every marine case. Immigration needs witnesses? We serve those summons.”

The requirement under the criminal procedure code dates from 1975 when Cayman had “maybe 20 witnesses a year,” Mr. Walton said. There are now four officers in RCIPS focused on serving the summonses for court.

“There’s no reason why that particular service cannot be outsourced,” he said.

Criminal, traffic warrants

There are about 1,000 outstanding criminal court warrants and 370 unpaid traffic fines, some of which date back a number of years. Some of the warrants are issued for individuals who are no longer resident in the islands, but they remain on the books, police commanders said.

Mr. Walton said warrants issued for violent offenders must be served by police for obvious reasons. However, warrants issued for non-appearances for parking violations or speeding tickets probably do not require a police officer’s presence.

“{The process] is not as efficient as it should be,” he said, “but it’s our job to execute [the warrants]. That’s unavoidable.”

While he said he did not wish to be seen as criticizing the courts, Mr. Ennis said police officers often feel disheartened when they pursue and arrest someone who has failed to show up for criminal court and that person is released again.

“Very rarely do you see any consequences or actions for failing to appear in court,” Mr. Ennis said. “So people play fast and loose with the law. You have to respect the judiciary.”

Car wrecks

By the chief superintendent’s estimate, half of the vehicle crashes that occur in the Cayman Islands do not need to be attended by police.

In instances where vehicles have collided, even if there is significant damage and no one is hurt, Mr. Walton said the matter can be cleared off the road and dealt with by insurance adjusters. Currently, the law does not require police to respond to minor-damage accidents, though they sometimes do.

Police traffic statistics released last week showed 551 vehicle crashes reported to police during the first six months of this year, a rate of about three accidents per day.

“How often are you traveling down the street and a fender-bender is blocking up traffic and they’re waiting for the police to come?” Mr. Ennis said. “Most of the time, it’s just for insurance purposes. Get the car out of the way.”

While police have revamped the old Traffic Management Unit to respond to and investigate more serious accidents, both senior commanders said reducing the need for officers to attend non-injury collisions would assist police with staffing.

Schools and security

In recent years, the Cayman Islands public school system has installed a full-time police officer to monitor the halls of each of Grand Cayman’s two public high schools – John Gray and Clifton Hunter.

Mr. Walton said those officers are stationed in the schools five days a week.

“Is it really for the police to be policing the schools?” he said. “My suggestion would be no.”

The Cayman Islands licenses about 600 private security officers, who, Mr. Walton suggested, could be used for security duties at the high schools and in other areas.

The licensing of security guards and the companies that employ them is also a responsibility of the RCIPS. Three police officers and two civilian support staff are currently assigned to the task, he said. “That’s another added demand,” he said.

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  1. Totally agree with A/Commissioner Ennis and Chief Superintendent Walton: The one difference between a sworn police officer and any other member of the community is that the former are given certain powers: Power of arrest, power to stop/search and power to enter premises (all of these powers are conditional).

    Therefore, sworn police officers should only be necessary for tasks that potentially involve using these powers.

    Service of witness summonses, for example, can be done either by an official of the court or, more radically, by post which is the way it is done in most countries.

    Likewise, patrolling the halls of schools – why is this only ‘required’ in the public schools? Does this not say more about the public school system? Perhaps the schools need to identify those who are disruptive and have them attend an ‘exclusion unit’ staffed by specialist teachers and with increased security. This is not about hiding away trouble but recognising that certain pupils needs specialist handling in order for them to have the opportunity to reach their potential to be decent members of our community.

    If you want an efficient police service you recruit the best, train them well, equip them properly and only use them for the policing function – patrol work and the investigation of crime. Indeed, with the latter, recording witness statements does not require police powers, nor does collecting evidential samples from a crime scene – both of these tasks can be transferred to properly trained individuals.

    Simply, the police service needs ‘police officers’ who are dedicated to those functions where their powers are needed with an increase in specialist, non sworn, staff to handle the ‘non police’ functions.

  2. A great opportunity was lost 8 years ago when the Private Security Services Law was put into effect and the requirements for a specific training program for security services in the Cayman Islands was pulled off the table.

    The reasons for this development, after some excellent training program bids was submitted to the RCIPS for review was never made public or known to the businesses who bid for the training contracts…and the bid documents were never returned to the potential training providers either.

    Great savings to the Govt. and police man hours could have been made had a good training program been made mandatory for security officers working in Cayman because a solid back-up system would now be in place to out-source some of these non-police duties to businesses with trained, qualified security staff with the necessary skills and education to carry out these tasks.

    Those of us who are qualified, experienced security trainers knew the potential of having a specific Cayman Islands program in place as we could see the need for out-sourcing services if the population grew and crime increased, taking up more police time in solving and prosecuting crime.

    What we are now seeing and is being expressed by the RCIPS high command is an inability of the powers-that-be to think outside the box and move with the times, to solve current problems that have evolved, as Cayman’s society has evolved.

    What we have now, when we need so much more, is a private security system peopled by foreign-hired ‘watchmen’ who have no requirements to know Cayman law, no requirements to prove literacy and English-language skills necessary to an English-speaking society and no need to prove conflict management or situation-control skills.

    I am not saying that some of Cayman’s security officers do not posses these skills but those are in the minority and are not enough which with to build a back-up system to assist the police in these vital but non-police tasks.

    In the United Kingdom, for the purpose of police budget savings, many of these tasks are now out-sourced to private security firms because a mandatory training program was implemented for security personnel years ago and the general abilities and skills can be assessed along a general standard of competence.

    It is not too late for the C.I. Govt. and the RCIPS to revisit the idea of a training program for private security to help to some of these man-power problems the RCIPS is now experiencing.