When Police Commissioner Derek Byrne revealed plans last month to create a community police force of more than 30 officers in the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, Premier Alden McLaughlin stated his support for the initiative.
“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 at a July 26 community meeting in George Town’s Scranton neighborhood.
However, the premier unveiled a different plan last week during his strategic policy statement in the Legislative Assembly. Instead of establishing a community officer force, Mr. McLaughlin said he has asked Mr. Byrne to establish a unit of “community wardens” who would be trained in “some” policing methods but would not have all the powers of a trained constable.
Community wardens are used to varying degrees in multiple jurisdictions in the U.K., and typically have powers to do such things as control traffic, take names and addresses, and issue citations for low-level crime such as littering and graffiti. They are part-time paid positions in some jurisdictions, and unpaid volunteers in others.
Such details pertaining to Cayman’s community warden program are expected to be hashed out before government presents its two-year budget in October.
Mr. McLaughlin said he favors the community warden approach because it will allow constables to work on solving crimes. He added that the wardens could be former police officers and others who have the trust and familiarity of their respective neighborhoods.
The premier also said that his administration could not entirely meet Mr. Byrne’s request for additional resources – including the community officer unit and more officers from overseas – because it costs too much, and because he has concerns about significantly increasing the officer count without the commissioner providing “an overall plan of action.”
However, Mr. McLaughlin did promise the RCIPS 25 new officers per year over the next three years, as well as new vehicles, tactical firearms assets and the creation of a coast guard unit. As of March, the RCIPS had 356 uniformed officers – nine fewer than a decade ago, according to Mr. Byrne.
While the premier promised additional resources, he also insisted that they be “used as agreed,” and said that his government “will hold the commissioner to account for the results.”
To that end, he said, his administration will be in discussions with Governor Helen Kilpatrick about establishing a Cayman Islands Police Authority.
Mr. McLaughlin did not describe in detail what the functions or composition of a police authority would be, but in April 2016, for example, Mr. McLaughlin reportedly said on Radio Cayman, “The U.K. are crazy having responsibility here for national security,” and that “it would be far better if the people could hold me or another elected member responsible.” He also said in Finance Committee last June that he was going to “press really hard for the establishment of a police authority” because the current situation of the governor having control over the RCIPS while the government finances it is untenable.
Such a change, if enacted, may require an amendment to the Cayman Islands Constitution, which gives the governor oversight of the police.
Matthew Forbes, head of the Governor’s Office, said he is sure the office will discuss the police authority proposal with government leaders, but that no detailed talks have taken place yet. Mr. Byrne did not respond to a request to respond to Mr. McLaughlin’s statements before press time.