A delegation of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has been on the ground for five days in the British Virgin Islands, and on Thursday it went a long way toward re-establishing security on Tortola.
The 16 members of the RCIPS force in BVI was part of an exercise that resulted in securing a local prison that had been compromised by Hurricane Irma. Seventy prisoners were reported to have escaped during the storm, but after a joint police exercise, they are all back behind bars.
Matthew Forbes, head of the Governor’s Office in the Cayman Islands, who is deployed with the RCIPS on Tortola, relayed the news of the prison operation to the Cayman Compass on Thursday.
“This morning, there was a joint operation led by the BVI police in partnership with the RCIPS officers here, with Royal Marines in support,” he said. “They managed to recapture 70 prisoners. The prisons hadn’t been secure, but the prison is now secured and the prisoners have been incarcerated. Obviously, we’re very pleased about that and it’s a great accomplishment for the RCIPS team that went in.”
The RCIPS officers are based in Road Town, the capital of Tortola, where they have been tasked with patrolling the area and providing visible security around banks and food convoys. Mr. Forbes said the police have encountered buildings and trees that were destroyed and downed power lines in several areas of Road Town. He also said that communication is problematic outside of the capital.
“There’s a cleanup operation starting, and things are beginning to get a bit better,” he said. “It’s going to take time. I think anyone who went through Hurricane Ivan will know how long these things take.”
A contingent of 45 British officers are also on the scene. There are lots of generators in Road Town and some buildings have power, but wholesale recovery could take weeks or months.
Mr. Forbes said he is not certain how long the RCIPS will stay on Tortola to assist in the recovery. The Cayman officers were the first outside police to arrive as reinforcements.
Cayman’s police helicopter has been on Turks and Caicos assisting with aerial reconnaissance and support for much of this week.
“Without adequate policing, the environment cannot stabilize enough for aid to be delivered and people to get the help they need,” said Derek Byrne, Cayman Islands police commissioner. “We are proud to be able to help the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force restore law and order and deliver humanitarian aid.”
At some point, the RCIPS unit, which traveled to Tortola after an urgent request from BVI Governor Augustus Jaspert, will have time to reflect on their efforts to preserve a neighboring community. For now, they are too busy with the day-to-day business of police work to think about their place in the world.
“That’s something that maybe they’ll think about when they come back,” said Mr. Forbes. “At the moment, there’s just a big focus on trying to do things. It’s long days for everybody.”