The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service has not managed to hire more than nine new cadets in any local recruitment effort since 2014, leaving the growth planned within the police service over the next few years mostly dependent on the hiring of non-Caymanian officers.
The RCIPS has been approved to hire 75 new officers between this year and 2020, in an attempt to grow the department’s patrol division, community policing efforts and its specialist units.
However, local cadet classes netted a total of just seven new police officers in 2015, six in 2017 and nine earlier this year. Typically, the police have recruited 12-15 new cadets per class in prior years.
At the same time, the department grew by about 10 percent between March 2017 and March of this year. That growth has largely come from foreign recruits. Fifty-four percent of RCIPS officers as of March 2018 were non-Caymanian.
In the most recent effort to hire new cadets, the RCIPS announced Friday that it is now accepting applications from both Caymanians and non-Caymanians. Previously, the recruitment was limited to Caymanians and spouses of Caymanians who have permanent residence. Any non-Caymanian hopefuls must have at least four years of residence in the islands before application.
“We are extending the [application] deadline and also widening the criteria for applicants in order to create a pool of interested people with local knowledge from which we can draw for our personnel needs both this year and next,” RCIPS Commissioner Derek Byrne said, adding that the current recruitment drive would extend to Aug. 24 to allow any other interested candidates to apply.
The commissioner noted Friday that 81 applications for the upcoming cadet class had been received, which he said the RCIPS considered “a very good result.” However, it is a far cry from the hundreds of applications received in previous years by the police service, or those received in other law enforcement departments, such as prisons officers.
A recruitment effort in early 2014 screened 500 potential applicants for police. A total of 128 applicants vied for just seven open jobs at Her Majesty’s Prisons Service in 2016.
Commissioner Byrne acknowledged that the RCIPS seeks to hire Caymanians “first and foremost” during its recruiting efforts. However, the rate at which new local police cadets are being brought in to the service won’t allow the RCIPS to hire fast enough to meet its goal of 75 more officers by 2020.
Moreover, the police service overall is aging, according to records obtained via a Cayman Compass open records request in 2016.
The records revealed that out of 365 uniformed officers at the time, just 17 (4.7 percent) were between ages 18-28.
Eighteen is the minimum age one must attain before joining the local police service.
On the other hand, 237 police officers, representing 65 percent of the department, were between the ages of 40 and 59. An additional seven police officers were over age 60, according to the records.
Since then, the police service has grown to about 390 uniformed police officers, not counting special constables. Most of those new recruits have come from overseas.
The move to open the police recruit class to non-Caymanians drew criticism from Opposition Leader Ezzard Miller, who asked Acting Governor Franz Manderson to deny police the ability to open their local recruitment class to non-Caymanians.
“Once again, the Government is making it difficult for Caymanians to secure employment in their own country,” Mr. Miller said. “We reject the Commissioner’s rationale that transient groups in the community should have representation in the police force, particularly in view of the role of cultural awareness and knowledge in maintaining public safety and effective policing.”
Acting Governor Manderson said Saturday that Commissioner Byrne had “made it clear” that the RCIPS intended to give Caymanians preference in hiring, as the law requires.
“The Commissioner has a proven track record of making every attempt to increase the number of Caymanians in the RCIPS including opening the application process for Caymanians to apply to join the RCIPS as an ongoing process throughout the year,” Mr. Manderson said. “I recently attended the RCIPS graduating class of 2018 in which the entire class of nine were Caymanians.
“I believe it is important to point out that the criticisms leveled at the Commissioner do not accurately capture his comments. Given the applicants have only just applied and are at stage 1 of the recruitment process, the Commissioner did not refer to them as ‘suitable candidates.’ Rather, the Commissioner confirmed the RCIPS had received 81 applications ‘from people meeting the minimum criteria.’
“I join the Commissioner in encouraging Caymanians to use the extension of the deadline to apply to join the RCIPS.”
On Friday, Mr. Byrne said, in addition to the effort to recruit new officers, the police also must recruit individuals to specialist positions where skills do not exist within the islands’ small population.
“We will strive to represent some groups in the Islands that are currently underrepresented in the Service, while also adding varied skill sets, including language skills, to our day-to-day working capacities,” Mr. Byrne said.