It’s hardly newsworthy (or even noteworthy) that this newspaper and its parent company, Pinnacle Media, enthusiastically and vocally support our local police.
We take this stance, not blindly or unreservedly but in the belief that other than the beauty of our beaches and the allure of our sea, the greatest attraction of these islands is their safety and security, both of which contribute greatly to quality of life for our residents and attractiveness to our visitors.
Whenever the tranquility of our shores are under threat, by aggressive and threatening “dirt-bikers,” for example, this newspaper speaks up loudly – and repeatedly. Our image, when it comes to law and order, must be matched by our reality.
Nevertheless, neither we, nor our recently arrived Police Commissioner Derek Byrne, are myopic about the challenges that the RCIPS currently faces. In a wide-ranging interview on Page One of today’s Compass, Commissioner Byrne speaks to the need to modernize the department he leads, as policing here, and indeed everywhere, faces issues that were unknown in earlier times – such as cybercrime and sophisticated financial wrongdoing.
Moreover, shortcomings of the family unit, the education system, and social services are putting increased burdens on our police. At the same time, respect for “the uniform” by both the public and too many politicians is diminishing. In recent weeks, this newspaper has reported incidents where police have been shot at, assaulted and spit upon. Gun crime, although rare in comparison to the region, is committed with a regularity that would have been unimaginable in Cayman only a few years ago.
Commissioner Byrne is not naïve when it comes to dealing with, as President Trump might say, “bad hombres.” He spent 36 years in the ranks of An Garda Síochána, the national police force of Ireland. In his short time with the RCIPS, he has become known among his fellow officers as fair, “by-the-book” – and tough. He also is a committed proselytizer for the gospel of grassroots “community policing.”
He recognizes that one of the shortcomings of his department is lack of follow-up with victims of crime as their cases continue to be investigated and eventually enter the justice system. We agree, but would go further.
We in the media can and do work in partnership with the police, but we ought not be the surrogate voice of the RCIPS.
We report on crime – but only when we learn of it through the RCIPS or our own sources. Currently, the spokesperson for the police, Jacqueline Carpenter, gets high grades from those of us who work with her on a daily basis. Commissioner Byrne also gets accolades for being open and accommodating whenever we encounter him, including at major crime scenes.
However, we would urge even more openness and transparency from the RCIPS. In our newsroom, almost all of our reporters have on their CVs a stint covering police in jurisdictions around the world. It’s part of the “rite of passage” for a reporter. Most police departments make available to the media an accounting of all crimes reported or investigated in the previous 24 hours. Cayman should adopt this practice. We don’t want to over-emphasize crime in this jurisdiction, but we don’t want to underreport it either.
In any event, we particularly subscribe to Commissioner Byrne’s worthy goal of fashioning a department where young Caymanians enthusiastically pursue careers in law enforcement. It’s a necessary – and noble – profession.