Police Commissioner Derek Byrne revealed plans this week to create a community policing force of more than 30 officers in the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
Speaking at a community meeting Wednesday night in George Town’s Scranton neighborhood, Mr. Byrne said department budget plans are still being finalized, but he said he would request hiring additional officers.
Some of the new hires would go to community policing efforts, which are proposed to be expanded to 28 full-time police constables, two supervising sergeants and an inspector to run the operation.
That would represent nearly 10 percent of the police officers now employed in the service, not including volunteer special constables.
“We expect to see an increase in resources … a dedicated, ring-fenced commitment to community policing to avoid … abstraction of police officers for other purposes,” Mr. Byrne told a group of about 25 George Town residents.
A number of the Scranton residents expressed concerns about community “beat” officers – such as former Constable Cornelius Pompey, who was well-known and well-regarded – being reassigned or promoted during times when crime reports spike.
“You put one here this month, and then next month you move them out,” one resident told Mr. Byrne.
Mr. Byrne said, if and when he does bring in the new community policing officers, they will be dedicated solely to that task.
Premier Alden McLaughlin promised government would provide the necessary funding for the additional community officers in the upcoming budget, which begins on Jan. 1, 2018.
“I am anxiously awaiting the commissioner’s plan, but I promise him that we are going to do whatever … we need to do, to ensure that he has the resources to be able to have dedicated beat officers in the key communities across Cayman where there are perennial problems,” Mr. McLaughlin said.
“We can look, as a country, to a significant increase in the money that is spent on policing and I hope that I don’t hear the usual … complaints from the usual quarters about how much the government is spending,” the premier said. “I don’t believe any issue is more critical now than national security.”
Commissioner Byrne pointed out in March that the RCIPS has about 10 fewer police officers overall than a decade ago. At the time, the RCIPS had 356 uniformed officers on staff, compared to the 365 it maintained in August 2007.
Aside from the overall numbers, RCIPS Superintendent Robert Graham said a well-run community policing force can add an extra dimension to a police service, giving officers insight and sometimes valuable intelligence about what’s going on in a particular neighborhood.
“Having a community police officer is key to gaining the trust of the community,” Mr. Graham said.
While dedicating officers to that task is a good idea, Mr. Graham said, there’s nothing to stop regular patrol officers from developing relationships in the neighborhoods they patrol.
“A lot of police officers tend to spend too much time driving from A to B,” he said. “I still would expect the officers that we have to be spending time on foot patrol … I’m talking about having a purposeful conversation.”