Lawmakers will consider a request to allow members of the Anti-Corruption Commission to carry Tasers, police batons and pepper spray. Does Cayman really need this expanding “arms race”?
Proposed amendments to the Anti-Corruption Law would allow the governor to empower the chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission to equip investigators with the non-lethal weapons, body armor and restraints, and to set the conditions for their use. Advocates of the bill say the change will safeguard the officers’ safety in potentially dangerous situations.
A better and safer alternative for these quasi-law enforcement agents may well be to call in the real police for “backup” if they suspect a situation may get out of hand.
Anti-Corruption investigators have similar duties and the same powers of arrest as officers with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. The main difference, of course, is that the scope of anti-corruption investigators’ activities is limited to suspected violations of Cayman’s Anti-Corruption Law. Generally, we think of these offenses as “white collar crimes,” not violent crimes that take place in night club parking lots near closing time.
Before 2016, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officers assisted the anti-corruption unit with their investigations. Since that time, the unit has been authorized to hire its own investigators – and six currently work for the team. They are unarmed, which is something Deborah Bodden, head of the commissions secretariat which manages the commission, wants to change.
“It is simply about affording investigators the same health and safety protections that their counterparts in other entities, such as the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, are afforded,” Ms. Bodden said.
Questions for Ms. Bodden: What is the evidence to date to support this request? Are there incidents unknown to the general public that suggest ACC officers are, or have been, in danger? Who are these officers? What are their backgrounds? What levels of training have they received?
There are many agencies in Cayman – perhaps too many – with similar powers of arrest which could make a similar argument: Immigration, Customs, Department of Environment, the Port Authority …
Imagine, a Taser in the hand of every government employee tasked with chasing down poachers, litterers, merchants of language proficiency test cheat sheets and other assorted scofflaws whose transgressions are punished by these quasi-law enforcement agencies.
We must be careful here: Tensions can run high in nearly any confrontation, and adding weapons – even nonlethal weapons – to the mix raises, not lowers, emotional temperatures.
It also places an added burden on investigators, who must make difficult, real-time decisions about the appropriate use of force, even while carrying out their intended duties.
Our view is that force should left in the hands only of highly trained, highly accountable, and strongly regulated professionals. If, in the course of their investigations, anti-corruption agents encounter individuals who pose realistic threats to society, or specifically to the officers tasked with apprehending them, they should call for the assistance of the RCIPS.
Too many policing agencies with arrest powers and weapons sound to us like a recipe not for law and order but more likely for trouble and lawsuits.