Michael Ebanks, deputy chief officer of human resources and immigration - Photo: Mark Muckenfuss

The newly formed Customs and Border Patrol – a merger of the former Immigration and Customs departments – represents not only a more efficient entity, but is an example of a change in the way policing decisions are made in Cayman, according to Michael Ebanks, deputy chief officer for human resources and immigration.

Ebanks told a group of police officials attending last week’s conference of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police that Cayman’s law enforcement agencies are undergoing a paradigm shift in terms of authority.

“We must recognise the need for a shift from traditional command and control,” Ebanks said, adding the agency was promoting a strategy to “empower, trust and support” those officers working directly with the public.

He said officers, who are trained to recognise certain behaviours and red flags in terms of documents, can use those skills to focus on potential lawbreakers, rather than thoroughly checking every individual arriving at Cayman’s ports of entry.

“We’re no longer in a gatekeeper mode,” he said, where officers “would be looking for 100% compliance. That is not efficient”.

He said the new strategy is already paying off.

“We’ve seen a record number of refusal rates,” he said. “That’s a direct reflection of recognising legitimate versus illegitimate passengers and goods.”

Giving more decision making power to the “boots on the ground”, he said, allows other personnel time to focus on more important tasks, “freeing up our executives and managers to think”.

That is not something they always have time to do under a hierarchical structure, he said.

Ebanks said the agency is in its initial sprint and that changes are ongoing.

“We are three to five years out before we see the organisational cultures shifting to where the workforce feels comfortable working in a risk management [mode],” he said.

“You’re trying to undo decades of training and knowledge.”

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