Police Commissioner Derek Byrne addresses the West Bay community Wednesday evening at a public meeting. - Photo: Ken Silva

Officers with drug-detecting dogs will soon be regularly patrolling the territory’s streets and public beaches, according to Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Commissioner Derek Byrne.

Mr. Byrne was speaking Wednesday night at a community meeting in West Bay, where a number of other topics were also discussed, including the RCIPS community policing program, the issue of unlicensed bikers speeding through the streets, the behavior of police officers, and the planned coast guard project.

His announcement about the drug dogs came in response to a remark by West Bay MLA Tara Rivers, who lamented the “really, really offensive smell of marijuana use” at Seven Mile Beach and other public beaches.

“I know, because I’ve experienced it personally,” she said.

Mr. Byrne said his department has tried covert officers on the beaches in the past, but have had limited success. But drug dogs can be hugely effective, he said.

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The RCIPS is in the “final stages” of purchasing drug-detecting dogs, according to the commissioner, and they should be in use in one or two months.

Community officers for 12 beat areas

Community officers will also be making regular patrols soon, though the program is ramping up incrementally, said Mr. Byrne.

Four new officers graduated on Thursday, and about another 18 began training on the same day, he said.

“Most will be deployed to the community arena,” he said.

RCIPS Superintendent Robert Graham added that Grand Cayman will be split into 12 beat areas, each with one officer assigned to it – potentially two officers by April. Officers will spend time in their area on foot patrol, he said.

The RCIPS will hold a press conference next week to unveil more details about the program.

A West Bay resident asked about the nationality of the new recruits.

“I opened up the recruitment campaign last year on a permanent basis to Caymanian nationals only,” Mr. Byrne responded. “I’ve had very little feedback into that in terms of making applications.”

However, all the new recruits have Caymanian status, he said.

The resident said that she’s concerned that officers from other jurisdictions – particularly Jamaica – have been abusive and arrogant toward the local citizens.

Mr. Byrne took issue with the resident’s comment – “we are a diverse group of officers with various nationalities, and I was a little concerned when you said my officers have no interest in their communities,” he said – but promised that any unethical behavior by his officers will be dealt with accordingly.

“We are paid civil servants. If we’re not delivering that service, we must be held accountable,” he said. “I receive complaints on a daily basis, but I’m dealing with them. I accept that I have arrogant police officers, and we’re trying to deal with it as best as we can.”

Dirt bikers

The issue of unlicensed bikers was also raised by another resident, and RCIPS Inspector Courtney Myles said that government has given bikers a “designated piece of land” to use, and that he hopes to have the facility ready in about two months.

“There are persons in the community that have promised to assist financially, so I know it will get off the ground,” he said of the planned track.

A resident responded that bikers from West Bay are unlikely to travel all the way to East End to ride, but Mr. Myles begged to differ, pointing out that a group of riders loaded their bikes in trailers and traveled to Breakers Speedway last week.

The ones who continue to ride illegally will have the law enforced against them, he promised.

Mr. Byrne also spoke about his department’s efforts to establish a coast guard unit. In December, two senior U.K. officers came to Cayman to explore the possibility of creating a new coast guard and border protection agency.

Mr. Byrne said the project is still in its planning stages.

“[The U.K. officers] didn’t come in to set up a coast guard. They came in to look at the possibility of establishing a coast guard,” he said. “We’re working through the multiple complex issues it will take to set it up.

“There’s nothing more that can be said about it at the moment.”

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