Baines addresses infighting, failures and low morale

| 21/07/2009

(CNS): Commenting on Monday’s conviction of William Martinez-McLaughlin in the murder of Brian Rankine-Carter, Police Commissioner David Baines noted the criticisms in handling the evidence levelled at the RCIPS but blamed organisational failings within the service rather than individual officers. “I would be a poor leader if I sought to hang operational failings on individual heads,” Baines said. Speaking at his first community meeting, held on Cayman Brac Monday night (20 July), he also addressed internal factions within the RCIPS and low morale, and said his first job was to stabilize the force and stop the hemorrhaging of officers.

“Up until two years ago, this service was viewed the best in the Caribbean – but it has lost traction, it’s lost motivational leadership, and it’s lost some of its confidence,” Baines said. One glimmer of hope was that, like places he had worked in UK and across Europe, “I find fantastic people willing to put themselves in harms way and serve their community.”

“You don’t need me to tell you that the RCIPS has not enjoyed the best of publicity over the past two years. In fact we have become the story,” Baines said, noting that the suspension of his predecessor and a role series of temporary leaders “had not been particularly helpful” in developing strategies and bringing leadership and direction and commitment to serving the community.

The low morale was not surprising given that the RCIPS has become used to internalizing its problems, Baines said. “What it has lost sight of is what we’re here for, which is to be an outward facing, public relating and accessible police service to respond to the needs of our community. Instead of that you will have read in the media or seen on the news that there’s been different factions within the force that have been falling out with one another and … yet further alienating factions within the service itself.”

He said there were currently around 40 vacancies which represents 10% of the force across all areas of policing but predominantly neighborhood policing. The commissioner said he had spoken to Cabinet and the Portfolio of Internal Affairs about a commitment to get operational police officers “not just to respond to emergencies but to become the consistent, accessible, visible face in each of our communities – and I don’t mean just flashing by in a car.” He wants officers to be out on foot or on bicycle so that they start to develop the trust that the RCIPS has lost as an organization.

Baines said he had met with police staff and reminded them of what joins them rather than what separates them — “We wear the same uniform and we took the same oath” — and to stop falling out internally. “Do we know what’s causing distress in the communities? That’s what we should be addressing,” he said, adding, “It’s almost as if policing has become secondary to internal fighting.”

He said he needed to get on the twin track of stabilizing the force and build both identifiable neighbourhood policing an specialist units that are necessary to deal with most serious of crime.

Referring to the “horrendous murder of Mr Rankine” he said a whole host of issues surrounding policing failures had surfaced during the trial, not least the critical handling of exhibits. “It’s all right to ask what we are going to do about the failure of officers in those issues, but actually, organisationally, I think we failed those officers because we put them in impossible circumstances with the demands that we ask them to do with too few.”

Using the scenes of crime officers as an example, he said there were five officers but there should be four more. “We put them in impossible situations, going from job to job to job, and so they make mistakes,” the commissioner said, noting that one single event can be critical to the reputation of the force.

Moving on to the issue of public trust, or the lack of it, he said that right or wrong, there was the belief that if you call the police people will get to hear that you are an informant. He said he had not found an example of this but that was less important than the fact that people believed it.

Internally he had made it really clear that the public deserves their information to be secure and anyone who chooses to operate otherwise had no place in the service, and if it came to his attention, that officer would be dismissed. Otherwise, they would never get anyone to come forward to give the police their trust and the best information and get the most dangerous criminals off the street, he said.

In some of worst areas in Grand Cayman, such as hwere the murder of Omar Samuels took place in McField Lane in George Town, he said that there were six gunshots fired and 200 people in the area – and no one saw anything. “There is a lot of fear in that area and traditionally people don’t talk to police,” he said, and explained that where communities were so ingrained in their sense of fear then they had to look to other options.

In areas “where crime happens but people don’t talk”, he said alternative security could be supplied by, for example, better lighting and CCTV, so that when something bad happens they don’t have to rely on eye witnesses and could use technology to fill evidence gaps. “There may be issues with money but over the last five years there have been at least a dozen incidences where people have been shot, murdered and machetied and yet we still don’t have people coming forward.”

After the meeting, Baines told CNS that Operations Tempura and Cealt had been distractions to the primary role of the RCIPS, and what was needed was a refocusing of the officers on their primary duty of serving the community and upholding the law.

In the absence of leadership divisions within the RCIPS had developed and this had sometimes played out in the media. “If there is no means to address people’s grievances internally these will manifest in the media,” he said. “If we provide a venue to deal with grievances and address these concerns, I would not expect the continued use of the media to wash our dirty linen.”

The commissioner continued, “I have explained to my staff that provided I do my part to provide professional support to address staff issues I will take a dim view of those who seek to further their self interest over the interest of the force by publishing in the local media.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Headline News

About the Author ()

Comments (10)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:


    As a culturally aware and born and bred Caymanian myself – I disagree with you. Unfortunately your argument is flawed by your prejudices because you are suggesting:
    1)      Countries from the region are all corrupt and with a lower standard of living
    2)      These officers have no idea about our culture yet officers from the UK are fully aware of our culture??
    3)      These officers risk their lives every day simply for a pay check that you seem bitter about.
    4)      Officers from high crime countries are all corrupt and unable to or unwilling to do their jobs of protecting and serving the Cayman Islands community. As a matter of fact it seems you are also suggesting that if they are from a high crime country then in turn it somehow makes them criminals as well.
    5)      It is impossible to find regional officers who you can/who are: 1.Trust 2. Appreciate  3. Corruption Free 4. Dedicated 5. Honest & Unbiased
    Your comments are prejudicial, inflammatory and baseless. The Prime Minister of our mother country publicly castigated us and is trying to ruin our financial industry. The allegations and charges of corruption and mismanagement in our press are more against our UK officers than our regional officers.  I am able to blend in quite nicely and the degree of contempt that some English people have for Cayman is appalling. They thumb their noses at us and laugh at our “inferiority” to their supremeness. So whilst you are so busy trying to rub elbows with the English be prepared to be treated with contempt.
    At the end of the day when prejudices and personal grudges affect our judgment nothing productive comes from that. We cannot make disparaging comments castigating an entire nation of people. We need to stop that!!!  
    I repeat as a Caymanian I could care less where the officer is from just as long as they are competent and fair in the handling of their duties. If I am being attacked and need protection I could careless if the cop who is there to save me speaks with a British accent or a Jamaican accent!!!! All I care about is can they protect me?!!!!!
  2. Annoymous says:

    Dear Anonymous,

    Re your comment: I strongly hope that you are not employed by the RCIPS.

    I am not a member of the RCIPS, but I am a member of a culturally aware Caymanian Society who has watched the decline in the RCIPS after the employment of an influx of officers from other jurisdictions with lower standards of living etc.

    I am one of these said individuals who pay the salaries of these officers every month with the indirect taxation on everything I purchase whether it is tangible or intangible.  SO I am entitled to make my comments and although you may find them prejudicial, the reality of the situation is that fundamentally we are a sinking ship if we continue on the path of hiring these officers who have no idea of our culture, environment or simply put don’t care to know either, except for the credit amount showing up in their bank accounts at the end of each month so that three quarters of it can be wired out the next day back home.

    Whilst you may disagree with me suggesting that we import police officers from our mother country, this is in now pay proving that I am from said country and supporting these persons, I am a born and bred Caymanian who has followed the rapid destruction of the moral of the RCIPS with the Community simply because we have too many officers from other jurisdictions where high crime is a normal day occurrence for them and therefore they are desensitized to the needs of this country and its people.

    Give me an RCIPS that I can 1. Trust 2. Appreciate  3. Corruption Free 4. Dedicated 5. Honest & Unbiased.  Then you can tell me about being prejudice.

    To the Commissioner Baines, please ask the Caymanian people if they would prefer UK officers or others from neighbouring jurisdictions, and I can assure you that you will hear their plea: Ask our Mother UK for help.


  3. Anonymous says:
  4. Culturally Aware Caymanian says:


    As I read this article I would like to raise the point that what seems to be the fundamental concern in the Police Dept. is the calibre of Officers. The chronic fact that we continue to solicit officers from regions or areas that have high crime rates, poorer standards or living, and significant differences in culture to that of Caymanians, is clear evident that we don’t show any concern for these factors in the recruitment process. Which any good HR person knows; the best way to manage a bad employee is to not hire them at all.
    The hope for returning Cayman to a simpler crime free society will never be visible until the RCIP address the issue of employing persons from other jurisdictions with significant differences in culture to ours. Some of these individuals come from countries that have news paper headlines such as “Five Murders on “violence-free day”. How now are we expecting these officers to show any empathy to our communities when they are completely desensitized to crimes? The largest misconception we have is that we need people from the other Caribbean countries to understand our culture, when in fact they usually come here with resentment of our country and people.
    On Saturday evening the Community Outreach program for the WB District held a movie night in the parking lot of the WB police station. Out of curiosity I drove by to see what sort of response this would get. I counted 15 persons in attendance with the majority being officers. Once again, reiterating the fact that the majority of the RCIP lack cultural awareness and as such find it hard to gain trust from the community. Had the officers done some research they would have released the last time Caymanians gathered outside to watch TV in the middle of Summer and was willing to battle mosquitoes and the noise of a busy intersection was the wedding of Lady Diana and Prince Charles which was held at the corner of Home & Office City in the Industrial Park in 1981.
    Solution, we need to go back to soliciting Officers from countries that have a standard of living that is equal or greater than ours, and we have to offer them remuneration packages that will eliminate the temptation for corruption. Presently Britain has over 2.3 million people unemployed; it would bode well for the Cayman Islands Govt. to hire our mother country citizens. History has thought us that the last time we hired English officers in this country the crime rate was reduced significantly and Caymanian officers faired well when promotion opportunities arose and moral was raised within the RCIP. The advantage the English officers bring is that they come from a cultural sensitive society and have demonstrated a willingness to learn and respect ours.
    To the Officials I trust my suggestions will serve you well in your endeavours to return the RCIP to the prestigious levels it was.
  5. Anonymous says:

    Cayman was fortunate on this occasion.  The mistakes and oversights were not seized on by the jury to avoid making a difficult decision.  Cayman is also fortunate in that there are still excellent officers with the RCIPS.  They need to be recognised and deployed in the right areas.  Malcolm Kay needs to brought back from the Brac and allowed to use his skills as an investigator to help stem the crime that has recently gripped the island.

  6. Anonymous says:
    “I have explained to my staff that provided I do my part to provide professional support to address staff issues I will take a dim view of those who seek to further their self interest over the interest of the force by publishing in the local media.”
    A fair point by the Commissioner. However, when officers work two year rolling contacts, which the RCIP management are under no obligation to renew, its not quite as simple as he makes out. When an officer has an opinion which conflicts with that of management, even if that officer is ‘right,’ and what they are saying is ‘fair,’ how can they air that opinion to management without fear of their contract not being renewed next time it comes around? We all know that people who do not ‘tow the party line’ within the service, and as such put their head above the parapet, are likely to have it lopped off. There are a number of officers who left the RCIP having not had their contracts renewed because of this, just look at the case of one of the services dog handlers, and he was the services union / representative – how ironic!
  7. Caymanite says:

    Good old fashioned Northern guy will get this place ship shape in no time 😉

    Let’s hope so anyway, things can’t really get much worse right now.

    As soon as a tourist gets murdered that is the day Cayman says goodbye to one of its 2 money makers……of course, once tourism is gone the finance people won’t be far behind given that most of the big boys and girls are expats.

    What will you do then Cayman?

    Anyone for turtling next weekend?

    Mr. Baines might not be the guy that many of you as Caymanians wanted for the job, but I hope you are behind him because with YOUR help things just might change for the better.

  8. peoples says:

    He is doing what no other Commissioner has ever done speaking out about it and try to address it. One commissioner once said when asked about Corruption in the Police service "That he came here and found it".

  9. Anonymous says:

    Commissioner Baines seems to be off to a good start and and has rightly taken the time to gain a good understanding of the "politics" of what he is dealing with within the RCIPS.  With this approach there is a good chance that he can turn thing around and perhaps we will see the return of a more Caymanian based RCIPS, which is now greatly lacking.

  10. man deh a corna says:

    Now he got himself a serious issue to deal with!