Several months ago, we commended the National Roads Authority’s “pothole patrol” enlisting community help in flagging dangerous or deteriorating roadway conditions.
Next came the Cayman Islands Airports Authority’s “potty patrol” (or as one arriving passenger called it, “the pee pee patrol”) which is assisting travelers stuck in long lines at the recently opened Owen Roberts International Airport arrival hall who have urgent “nose-powdering” needs.
Now we have Police Commissioner Derek Byrne’s announcement at a community meeting last week of the formation of a different squad: Namely, a “pot patrol.”
At a community meeting in West Bay, Minister Tara Rivers attested to witnessing the “really, really offensive smell of marijuana use” on public beaches, including at Seven Mile Beach. Mr. Byrne said the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service is purchasing drug-detecting dogs, which will be used by officers patrolling our streets and public beaches to sniff out the drug-users. He said he expects to deploy the dogs in a month or two.
Certainly, ganja use is widespread in Cayman. Some people may dismiss the use of ganja as a minor transgression or a personal choice. Of course, it is neither. Violating the law is never a “personal choice” (except perhaps in rare cases of civil disobedience in which the lawbreakers acknowledge and accede to the consequences of their actions. Breaking our drug laws does not qualify).
Nevertheless, Cayman society might agree that smoking ganja (either in private or in public) constitutes, at most, a “minor offense.” We would posit that a far greater threat to Cayman’s commonweal derives not from the crime of smoking ganja but from the police’s reluctance or outright resistance to enforcing many of our laws – including our drug laws. (Our marauding motorbikers is a definitional example.)
Further, our lawmakers, meaning our elected members, should never pass criminal laws that they do not expect our police to enforce. Winking at one law, but not another, or, even worse, selectively enforcing a law against one citizen but not another, directly leads to a disrespect for all laws – and for our police.
Legislators love making laws, generating reams of them every time they convene – “solving” problems with a flurry of votes and keystrokes. Perhaps a more productive use their powers would be to clean up the territory’s “books” – subtracting rather than adding new chapters.
To transition from the theoretical to the practical, it is this simple: Either enforce our drug laws, consistently and universally, or get rid of them.
Cayman needs to ask itself some hard questions: What kind of a society do we want to live in? Does ganja smoking on our beaches and in public areas enhance, or diminish, our reputation as a socially conservative and inviting family friendly destination?
On the other hand, we cannot help but wonder why Cayman needs special patrols of police dogs to identify ganja smokers on the beach. Surely police should have been doing this routinely all along. Police, just like Minister Rivers, have eyes to see and noses to smell.
One thing we know with certainty – and we hope Police Commissioner Byrne fully appreciates: Patrolling our beaches (and other environments) with a cadre of specially trained drug-sniffing canines is a “forever” commitment that will require the cooperation and coordination of our prosecutors, judges and prison officials.
If those commitments have been secured, we will support Commissioner Byrne and the RCIPS in every way we can.
If, on the other hand, Commissioner Byrne was merely making not-well-thought-out remarks at a public meeting, we suggest that he needs to rethink this.
Six months from now, we do not want to be asking the question, “Who let the dogs out?”