Commissioner: Police assaults highlight community relations problem

Police Commissioner Derek Byrne, left, and Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis speak to the press Friday. - Photo: Brent Fuller

Stating that the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service “will not abide” attacks on police officers, Police Commissioner Derek Byrne said Friday that the problem of officers being assaulted while doing their jobs can be addressed by community policing and rebuilding relationships.

“Police officers are members of the community who are asked to go out and police that community,” Mr. Byrne said. “I’m seeing a lot of aggression, a lot of abuse [toward those officers].

“I read of machetes being produced towards officers, struggles taking place, one officer with his teeth broken in a traffic stop. These [officers] are the frontline defense coming to assist members of our community. We must challenge that fundamental relationship.”

A report compiled by the RCIPS noted “several incidents” recently in which police officers have been attacked “simply trying to execute their duties.”

Three incidents occurred over one weekend in January in which police officers were attacked or suffered injury while making arrests. The assaults followed a December attack on the head of the RCIPS traffic unit at a roadblock. Two of the police inspector’s teeth were broken in the attack.

A statement from the police high command released Friday noted: “We will not abide such attacks on officers and each and every incident will be investigated and prosecuted. Those who attack or abuse police officers who are carrying out their duties endanger the safety of the community as a whole and this cannot be tolerated.”

‘Not fully broke’

Commissioner Byrne said he believes community policing can be revitalized.

“It’s not fully broke, we can fix and we will fix it,” Mr. Byrne said.

RCIPS Superintendent Robert Graham also noted that community policing is a “top priority” and that officers are focusing mainly on youth involvement, through the skate-park initiative and on the “nighttime economy,” including liquor licensed premises, among other methods.

Mr. Byrne said there are other areas the police service could address with the support of legislators, who are considering updates to police-related laws in Cayman during the current Legislative Assembly meeting.

“I welcome the idea of an ombudsman or a complaints commission to deal with complaints against police officers,” Mr. Byrne said. “This will improve and enhance community confidence in the police.”

In addition, the Police Law will be amended to allow the commissioner the ability to fire officers who have been convicted of a crime.

Questions were raised in December when three police officers received paid suspensions following separate convictions for either common assault or assault causing actual bodily harm.

The officers, Austin Etienne, Cardiff Robinson and Michael Peart, are suspended with pay pending internal hearings on their cases that will determine any disciplinary action, according to police officials.

The Police Law amendment proposed by lawmakers would require the commission to fire officers who are convicted. The officers may be rehired if they are cleared on appeal. Mr. Byrne said he likes the idea, but thinks the commissioner could be given a bit more flexibility in the proposal.

Crime statistics

Another way police can better communicate with the community is via their semiannual reporting of crime statistics, the commissioner said.

Now, Mr. Byrne said, the raw statistics that are produced lack some detail the community might want, and the data could be made “much more user friendly.”

For instance, each specific crime is listed only in the aggregate for all three Cayman Islands. Mr. Byrne said the police would like to analyze those figures further so that “it would be broken down by policing districts.”

Also, for crimes like drug offenses, the information provided can include much more specific areas, like supply, possession, seizures and police or customs drug interdictions.

“There is capacity to improve the way we report crime to make it more meaningful to the community that we serve,” Mr. Byrne said.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I applaud the COP Mr Byrne for his words and courage to protect and defend his Officers .
    I think that the government is the biggest obstacles in the Police Force doing their job. You can’t send people to fight a war without all the tools that they would need to do the job and win .

    I think that the politicians needs to wake-up and take their heads out of the sand and see that crime is destroying the Islands , and the criminals are going kill the ones that are there to protect us all . The Police Officers .

    I think that the politicians should give the COP what he ask for and needs , because he knows what he need to fight crime , but the politicians don’t even know that’s there a crime problem .

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  2. I support TOP COP Byrne’s thoughts. “We can fix it”
    If we let the public get away with incidents of assaulting police it shows weakness will eventually become a total disrespect, and lead to greater things. So the best thing is to “Nip it in the bud” right now, by letting the public know through the Courts that this will not be tolerated.

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