Over the extended holiday period between Christmas and New Year’s, one of the editors at the Cayman Compass found himself interacting with police on two separate occasions.
No, he wasn’t driving recklessly on a motorbike, and no, warrants weren’t involved. Rather, our editor, along with hundreds of motorists, simply encountered traffic checkpoints set up by the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. (In both incidents, the officers glanced at our editor’s vehicle tag, said hello, and waved him though.)
The checkpoints are the first and most noticeable sign of the tenure of new Police Commissioner Derek Byrne. In addition to citations for improperly tinted windows or expired tags, the checkpoints also provide police with opportunities to make arrests for more serious offenses, such as intoxicated driving, drug possession or even violent crime.
Perhaps the most important result of the checkpoints, however, is what is reflected in our editor’s experience – a renewed awareness among the law-abiding members of our community that our police are present, active and on duty.
Now, we know that some of our readers aren’t proponents of relatively intrusive traffic checkpoints, and we understand they aren’t the only way for police to raise their profile “on the street.” But checkpoints certainly are one tool that officers can employ. As a rule, we don’t delve into police tactics or strategies, preferring to leave those decisions up to the professionals; however, we will say that, particularly in the wake of the two Boxing Day shootings (in regard to which one arrest has been made), and generally amid the perception that crime and lawlessness are on the rise, it is most imperative that police strive to be as visible as possible.
We simply cannot allow the safety and security of Cayman to slip away, drip by drip, because of passivity on the part of law enforcement. If diminishing standards among the community eventually erode the rule of law, then Cayman will have “defined deviancy down,” and what was once considered unacceptable, or even unthinkable, will have become the status quo.
Too often the Compass runs stories involving gun violence, not just about “gang members shooting one another,” but also situations where innocent people are involved. For example, in Tuesday’s newspaper, we published a story about two armed men who attempted (but thankfully failed) to rob a money transfer vehicle outside a local bank. Not so long ago, that story would have run across the top of the front page, beneath a screaming two-deck headline. On Tuesday, it didn’t even make Page One.
Cayman is still far safer than similarly sized communities in North America or Europe, and is one of the safest places in the Caribbean. It is vital to our tourism sector, financial services industry and quality of life that we keep Cayman’s reputation for safety in sync with reality.
When it comes to law and order, the police are our first line of protection — backed up by public prosecutors, defense attorneys and the judiciary. All must work together to ensure prompt and expedient justice.
It does little good if the police make arrests, but cases either take years to reach a judgment or don’t go forward at all.
At the beginning of 2017, there is gridlock in Cayman, not just on many of our crowded roads (and not because of police checkpoints), but within our courts. Speed may not be desirable on our highways, but it is essential in our justice system.