Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner Derek Byrne will meet with East End district residents Thursday night in the wake of some community backlash over a quadruple-fatal car crash in the district on May 2.
Mr. Byrne said Tuesday that the meeting, which was being scheduled anyway to inform residents about the reopening of the new East End district police substation, would be a good opportunity for police to listen to community concerns.
“You’re in the heat of a moment after a very tragic occurrence out there, [with] lots of people upset,” Mr. Byrne said. “Things were said; I have to say they’re not substantiated in any way.”
After the crash that killed three U.K. tourists and a 22-year-old Jamaican man, rumors began circulating on social media about a police officer pursuing the Honda Accord that smashed into the tourists’ rental vehicle.
In addition to the four deaths, an 11-year-old boy and a 26-year-old Jamaican man were seriously injured in the crash. Family members of the 11-year-old boy claimed he had indicated the Honda was “being followed” by police after the boy and the two men had come in from a boat trip Tuesday evening.
Commissioner Byrne said this week that those statements could not be substantiated, and that the officer who first responded to the incident was stationed in East End, which reopened its substation on Monday, May 1 – the day before the fatal crash.
“That’s why the officer was there, because he was patrolling his community,” Mr. Byrne said. “I hope the community will get a chance to meet with me and talk about these things.”
Mr. Byrne placed part of the blame for the recent public and community relations difficulties experienced by the RCIPS on the police service itself, stating that the police generally need to do a better job of getting their message out.
“There’s a bit more understanding required in the community,” he said. “An encounter with the police shouldn’t be just in the situational context.”
One area the police need to improve, the commissioner noted, is in the recruitment of police officer candidates. In Tuesday’s graduation ceremony, just six new officers joined the force. Two auxiliary constables who were already with the RCIPS were promoted at the ceremony. Typically, police recruit classes have between 12 and 15 officers.
“It’s just difficult to recruit,” Mr. Byrne said, chalking up the trouble to a “combination of factors,” including partly to public outreach efforts. “Are we doing enough to go out and sell ‘the product?’” Mr. Byrne asked. “Are we doing enough in terms of career guidance? There’s no reason why local people would not want to join [RCIPS]. We probably need to do a little bit more.”
Mr. Byrne said he thought there was “plenty of talent” in Cayman for law enforcement purposes, citing as one example Police Constable Nicholas Manning, 19, who was one of the graduates at Tuesday’s ceremony.
“At 19 years old, you can see he’s got a fine career ahead of him,” the commissioner said.
The public meeting Thursday will be from 7-9 p.m. at the East End United Church Hall.