Last Sunday’s arson targeting a senior member of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service was far more than a crime. It is a symptom of an unacceptable fraying of respect for law enforcement.
The fire destroyed the two vehicles owned by the officer, and damaged a third car and a building in the Ryan’s Retreat subdivision off Crewe Road. Anyone with information about who deliberately started the conflagration must immediately come forth to police.
While the ostensible target may have been an officer of the law (we hope and trust that the officer and their family are being protected by colleagues from any future attack), last Sunday’s arson was a crime against every law-abiding resident in Cayman. In a real and important sense, it was an audacious attack on our social contract.
Because our lives and livelihoods are dependent on a lawful and orderly society, we each have a non-negotiable and indelible moral obligation to obey the law. Crimes against police should, and must, be unthinkable. To the contrary, they have become a recurring headline in Cayman.
Take the case of Elvert Mark McFarlane, who smashed out the windows of police officer’s personal car last May. Or 25-year-old Seth Watler, who punched Detective Superintendent Peter Lansdown in front of several witnesses at an Oct. 14 crash scene.
As a character in a James Bond novel once uttered: “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”
Unbelievably, some have attempted to downplay the men’s behavior. Mr. Watler’s attack – which knocked the officer unconscious and resulted in a fractured rib, bruised cheeks and a laceration to his head – has been characterized as a “single, unguarded moment.” It has been said that Mr. McFarlane’s attack was “fueled by grief” over the death of his relative.
The implication in both of these sentiments is that personal feelings and lapses in judgment somehow exempt or excuse individuals from their legal and moral obligation to respect life and property. The fact is, there can be no justification for attacking an agent of the law who is acting in accordance with his or her duties.
Some hope that building trusting relationships, more generally, between the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and certain members of the public will have a calming effect on crime in the Cayman Islands. Frankly, we are not convinced that community policing is the panacea it is being made out to be.
Nevertheless, we expect establishing “beat patrols” perhaps will have an unintended positive impact on the crime problem. It is not necessarily that stronger community relationships will charm antisocial predators into transforming themselves into model citizens, but police, like newspaper reporters, are reliant on their sources to keep them in touch with the inner workings of the community.
One of the presumed advantages of hiring Caymanians for the RCIPS is not just that they “understand” our local culture but also that they are more likely to know the “good guys from the bad” than someone who has just arrived from England or Jamaica.
In any event, the peaceable people of Cayman have an obligation to speak up and stand up against Cayman’s criminal element, and, like this newspaper, stand with the RCIPS.