The border enforcement duties now being performed by the Cayman Islands Immigration Department will be merged with Her Majesty’s Customs service as part of an overall crime-fighting strategy being pursued by the Progressives-led government, Premier Alden McLaughlin announced Wednesday.
Mr. McLaughlin said residents would start to notice changes in security officers staffing ports of entry within the next year.
“We will have a single border force agency with a staff trained to protect our seaports and airports,” the premier told members of the Legislative Assembly. “Immigration and customs staff are undergoing cross-training and participating in joint operations.”
Mr. McLaughlin said staff members wearing the new uniforms of the combined service are likely to start appearing in early 2019.
“This will become a reality,” he said.
The premier’s Ministry of Human Resources and Immigration has already undertaken plans to amalgamate administrative services performed by the Immigration Department on the granting of work permits and other immigration statuses. Eventually, those services are to be controlled by a new government human resources department, the creation of which is now being led by local attorney Sharon Roulstone.
The premier also suggested changes were on the way for local police and marine patrol efforts, beyond those already proposed in the 2018 and 2019 budget plans.
In addition to receiving a new community policing unit and a projected 75 new police officers over the next three years, Mr. McLaughlin said, his ministry was looking at additional funding for things like an expanded closed circuit television system for monitoring roads and possible pay raises to support Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officers.
“We are doing what we need to financially support the RCIPS,” the premier said, adding that he was satisfied that the police service “is taking seriously” his government’s commitment to keeping Cayman safe and reducing gun crimes.
The premier acknowledged that he was as worried as everyone else about recent armed robberies and a killing that occurred in his own constituency of Red Bay.
“[This] caused alarm throughout these islands, but especially in the Red Bay community which I represent and in the Prospect community, where I live,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “It is not the Caymanian way of life. Even if these incidents are not everyday occurrences … they must never come to be accepted as the norm.”
The Cayman Islands is making medium-term budgeting plans to support an independent coast guard service, to be operated separately from other law enforcement agencies, Mr. McLaughlin said Wednesday.
The “major assets” for the new coast guard are due to be budgeted for in 2020, he said.
“This will be a modern Cayman Islands coast guard with a multifaceted role,” the premier said. “[The] coast guard will have the ability to board and search vessels in our waters.”
Mr. McLaughlin noted that Cayman has been receiving advice on the new marine patrol service from Phil Bostock, a commander in the U.K.’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency, who has been on island since January.
The present idea, he said, was to keep the coast guard agency separate from other public safety functions “so its resources won’t be poached for other law enforcement work.”
The premier also bemoaned Wednesday, as he has on numerous occasions over the past decade, that the intent of Cayman’s 2009 Constitution Order to give locally elected leaders more strategic control over policing was never implemented in practice.
Mr. McLaughlin cautioned that this was not a call to give an elected government minister direct operational control of police. Rather, he said, the constitution had intended to oblige the U.K.-appointed governor in Cayman to follow the strategic direction given by a National Security Council, which is made up of elected and appointed officials, as well as two private citizen members.
At the moment, the council meets infrequently and is generally viewed as advisory in nature, Mr. McLaughlin said.
“It is too big and too important an issue to be the governor’s alone,” the premier said. “We [referring to the Legislative Assembly] get to vote [on the] money, but we do not have real control of national security issues.”