The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service is slated to hire more officers within the next three years than it ever has, according to government budget plans.

A flurry of hiring earlier this year has put the number of uniformed officers up to 379. The figure does not include civilian employees who work at the service.

Premier Alden McLaughlin has pledged to provide funding to hire another 75 police officers over the next three years. If current staff levels are maintained during that period, the RCIPS will have 454 police officers by 2020.

The additional officers do not represent the full number requested by Police Commissioner Derek Byrne in the upcoming budget. Mr. McLaughlin said the request “exceeded the available funding.”

The RCIPS, under former Commissioner David Baines, had just more than 400 officers. In 2015, Mr. Baines said that although he had the budget to hire another 30 to 40 personnel, “bureaucratic red tape” had prevented him from doing so.

The RCIPS has had to weigh the need to hire officers quickly to meet community demands and replace those retiring or leaving, against the desire to have more local police officers on the force.

In March, with 356 officers on staff – about 10 fewer than the department had a decade ago – a combination of local recruits and foreign officers were hired. The majority, about 20, came from outside the Cayman Islands. The police cadet class that graduated in May had a total of six probationary officers. A cadet class of local officers that graduated in November 2015 sent seven new recruits to the police.

Mr. McLaughlin expressed the government’s desire to hire local officers during his Strategic Policy Statement to the Legislative Assembly last week.

“We … had concerns with the request to increase the officer count by a significant number – requiring overseas recruitment – without sight of an overall plan of action,” the premier said.

Including the new hires this year, the RCIPS now has 167 Caymanian police officers and 212 non-Caymanians, meaning uniformed officers are 44 percent Caymanian at present.

Police civilian personnel include 45 Caymanians and 23 non-Caymanians, so the entire police service is about 47 percent Caymanian.

Community policing

Since arriving in Cayman from Ireland last year, Commissioner Byrne has proposed that the department make about 10 percent of its force neighborhood police. During separate community meetings in East End, George Town and West Bay, Mr. Byrne has heard repeated demands for more police to “get out of their cars” and go talk to neighbors.

“We’re a lovable district, we don’t try to harm no one up here,” John McLean Jr. said of East End. “If they’re not socializing, they’re not going to get any information out of the community.”

Last month, a number of Scranton residents expressed concerns about community “beat” officers 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.

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  1. It’s worth remembering that one of the major RCIPS staffing issues in the past was the exodus of repected, experienced officers shortly after Commissioner Baines arrived in the aftermath of Operations Tempura and Cealt. If my memory is correct the total was between 70 and 80, including several key civilian specialists. There also seemed to a steady staff turnover, including the departure of some notable senior officers, during his period of leadership.

    However, does it really need 454 officers to police islands covering just over 100 square miles and with a population of around 50,000?

    The Isle of Man, which covers slightly over twice the area, has a population of around 80,000 and hosts major events like the annual TT week, which attracted 42,000 visitors in 2016, yet they manage with just 200 officers.

    Where I come from in the UK the local police look after about 850,000 residents in a mainly rural county that’s spread out over more than 2000 miles with 1500 officers, 900 civilan staff and 170 PCSOs (uniformed community support officers). They also deal with a huge influx of visitors to the area during the Summer months without any apparent problems.

    So why does RCIPS require such relatively high staffing levels? I’m sure part of it is simply because, unlike in the two examples cited above, a large section of the population in the Cayman Islands neither respects nor trusts the police. Without obtaining that public support Commissioner Byrne, with due respect to his position, can recruit new officers until the proverbial cows come home but it won’t make any difference. Based on some recent fiascos in the Courts it may also have something to do with the fact that large sections of RCIPS seem to be doing a pretty passable impression of the Keystone Kops. Based on the Compass reports, if this is how some officers perform during a court hearing I shudder to think what their perfomance must be like on general duties.

    At the end of the day the numbers are meaningless if they’re not backed up by measures to restore public confidence in the police and, having just moved here from the crisis-ridden Garda, that’s something Commissioner Byrne must be only too well aware of.

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