“I find this incident very troubling, where an officer is diligently going about his work to protect and serve the community, is a first responder and witness to a tragic motor vehicle accident with multiple deaths, and in his own district where he lives and works, is targeted with the threat of violence and damage to his personal property.
“This is akin to an attack on Cayman society and the criminal justice system. This is reprehensible and every effort will be brought to bear to locate and arrest those responsible.”
–Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Commissioner Derek Byrne
Police Commissioner Derek Byrne did not mince words as to his feelings about the “criminal damage” incident targeting the personal vehicle of an East End police officer who was the first to respond to one of the deadliest traffic accidents in Cayman’s history. In brief: The commissioner is livid.
In the midst of campaign season, East End politicians did not mince their words on the incident either … namely because they didn’t have any.
Four people died Tuesday night in the head-on crash in East End. The police officer is well aware of that – because he was there, on the scene, trying to help and carry out possibly life-saving actions.
He was doing his job.
Perhaps the criminal vandals were motivated by initial rumors that were picked up and amplified, erroneously, on social media and then by certain media organizations (not the Compass) which did not bother to check facts before publishing. The word quickly spread that the police officer had been “chasing” a Honda Accord before it slammed head-on into a rented Kia Rio.
Perhaps it is understandable for people, following the loss of a loved one, to feel anger, even if it’s irrational. But for someone to damage a police officer’s property out of a misguided sense of revenge is cowardly, dangerous and criminal.
The fact is, the officer was not chasing the Accord. He had just noted the vehicle was speeding, and was turning around in preparation to give pursuit when the collision occurred.
And even if there had been a chase, the officer’s actions would have been justified, even necessary, given the apparently reckless behavior of the Accord’s driver, who is among the deceased. Again, the police officer was just doing his job.
That job is often a thankless one, and a perilous one, and can be a traumatic one. Some things you cannot “un-see.” One of those is witnessing multiple fatalities at an accident scene.
After the grisly experience, the police officer went to his house, which is in the same district where the accident occurred, and sought sanctuary with his wife and young child. And for someone, or someones, to threaten violence against him at his own home (which for every person should be a nearly inviolable place of peace) is just … well … Let’s put it this way: We and Commissioner Byrne see eye-to-eye.
Most (but not all) of our elected leaders and political challengers haven’t shared with the country their thoughts about this attack on law enforcement. The lack of comment, however, is most surprising, from East End politicians, especially longtime East End MLA Arden McLean. (The Compass reached out to all East End candidates, but by press time on Sunday, we had received no responses.)
In our minds, silence from our elected leaders and their electoral challengers suggests:
- Sympathy for the vandals who damaged the officer’s property (highly unlikely)
- Absence of understanding of the pressing need to support law enforcement and condemn criminal actions (more likely)
- Fear of the perceived political repercussions for speaking out (highly likely).
Sometimes the “sounds of silence” speak volumes ….