Who’s guarding the gate?

| 23/10/2013

I have read with interest the dialogue now taking place in the Legislative Assembly in relation to the current crime wave. I too endorse the calls for better policing and was happy to hear thepremier confirm his commitment to ensuring policies and resources aimed at crime reduction. Nonetheless, all of this talk took me back to only a couple of years ago (2011) when we were faced with a similar spate of retaliatory gang-related shootings (as they were then described). Many of you may remember a similar wave that took place even before then in 2005. 

Both times we heard the cries; but then the shootings quelled and so too did the impassioned calls for better policing and strong and effective crime reduction policies. While there is much to be said about addressing the current levels of crime in general, my current focus does not allow for that discussion (it will follow). My focus today deals primarily with the issue of gun-related crime.

I have watched intently as Commissioner Bains has taken licks (as he should) for what we all perceive as ineffective policing. That is, the failure of his officers to prevent, detect and successfully investigate gun-related crimes and apprehend the perpetrators to our satisfaction. But there is more than enough blame to share, so I must wonder why he sits alone in the hot seat.

The Customs Department has for too long escaped its share of the criticisms laid at the feet of the RCIPS. Customs’ most recent controversy is levelled at the hiring and qualifications of a suitable person to take on the position of collector. And I concede that as the highest revenue earner for the Cayman Islands Government, the department requires an educated and insightful leader (and person of integrity) at its helm.

However, revenue collection is NOT the sole (or most important) function of that department. As in all other jurisdictions, customs has a very significant law enforcement mandate to fill. It is charged with protecting our borders and ensuring that contraband such as guns and drugs don’t make it through to our communities … to the hands of unsavoury characters and our children. To the best of my knowledge no firearms are produced in the Cayman Islands and there are strict prohibitions surrounding their legal importation.

Therefore, the fact that we are seeing so much gun-related crime should tell us that there is a significant failing from this department, which precedes the blame to be held by the RCIPS. Ask yourselves, when was the last timeyou heard of a customs seizure of guns? Long before the mandate of the police to investigate a shooting kicks in, a crime relating to that particular firearm has already been committed. It’s called smuggling.

Why is no-one talking about this – the illegal importation of guns? Why aren’t we asking how they’re getting in, how many are here and who’s bringing them? Why aren’t we demanding arrests and holding customs to the same yard-stick as RCIPS? We chastise Bains for not doing enough to get guns and those who use them off of our streets, yet hold no one accountable for not keeping them from passing our borders in the first place.

For as far back as I can recall, customs had been hailed for the amount of duties it collected; but this has been part of the problem. As long as the additions to the coffers are bountiful we turn a blind eye to the fact that not enough emphasis has placed on its law enforcement function. Now with the search for a new collector in the spotlight, I believe that it is important that we all understand what we are search for.

It is clear that neither our MLAs nor the deputy governor thoroughly understands this. I listen to the calls on the one hand for a Caymanian and on the other for a master’s degree holder, neither of which properly articulates what should be required for the person collecting our money and guarding our gates. More important than having a Caymanian is having someone who understands the function and the mission of the department. More important than the need for a superfluous masters degree is the need for a LEADER, someone that understands the important balance to be achieved between revenue collection and border security and protection.

Whilst the requirement of a graduate degree is a reasonable expectation of the potential post-holder, for a position that emphases border security the need for law enforcement experience is equally as important. I dare say a master’s degree is not! Truth be known, most of CIG’s department heads would be without a job if that requirement were imposed across the board, which does make one wonder why it’s there.

If we are going to raise the bar (which we should), let it be raised to a reasonable and practical height. How about we not settle for just having a title-holder and demand some substance of the person charged with the guardianship of our borders. I’m sure Commissioner Bains would be all too happy to share his licks with anyone who’s adequately qualified to take them.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Viewpoint

About the Author ()

Comments (15)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Gordon Barlow says:

    Well, let's not be too harsh on those who guard our safety and security. Last time I left Cayman, I was forced to surrender the half-ounce of toothpaste I had in my carry-on bag. Who knows how much damage I could have done with that, on the flight… Yikes.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think you'll find the guns are coming in where the drugs are coming in.  I think the government really made a mistake a few years back when they declined the US offer to buy the radar they had installed here that could be used to track boats coming to the island.   With an island the size of Cayman it would seem the logical choice for border control but I guess what is done is done.

    • Chris Johnson says:

      Can we get someone who understands the law on importing dynamite?

      • Anonymous says:

        We already had someone who understood that law – sadly for them at the time 'we' didn't want anyone who understood the law and as such he's no longer employed – understanding the law would appear to have been his downfall……..

  3. Phone tapper says:

    Whose guarding the gate???!!! 

    Rather, it should be – 

    "Whose guarding the guard at the gate?!"

  4. Anonymous says:

    Excellent commentary. But I don't think you've gone far enough. Would love to see an indepth article about gun smuggling. And why isn't Baines publicly requesting more thorough enforcement by Customs?

    • KJ says:

      Bains could demand  more, but as he has no authority over Customs, I don't know that his calls will make a difference. Unlike RCIP and immigration, Customs does not fall under the Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs; it falls under the Ministry of Finance (which may be a part of problem since the focus of that ministry is finance and not security). All this to say that as tax payers we should demand performance from Customs the same way we demand it from RCIP, Immigration or any other law enorcement body.  

    • Anonymous says:

      Would be good to see some team work between Police and Customs…if there was any intelligence amongst them it would be happening already..

  5. trust issues onthe rise says:

    wow .. so now its crime versus privacy, controlling criminals versus controlling public and tapping phones. which one do you want Cayman?  make your pick

  6. Concerned Citizen.. says:

    Nice acticle. But I must ask because there are two sides to this story:  WHO IS GUARDING CAYMANIAN CITIZENS FROM BEING SNOOPED ON BY THE FCO, GOVERNOR, BAINES!  We hear about crime all the time and that we must fight it, but I am starting to feel like it is being used for other social control agendas… you know NSA, GCHQ, etc … we nah fo-fo  ;))

    • Cay Home says:

      I have to wonder how many expats (or colonial members) that don't mean us well clicked the troll button on you. Everything you said is true.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Very fine,articulate viewpoint. You are spot on with your analysis of what Customs in this day and age should be about and your criticism of its apparent inability to stop guns coming in. Didn't we spend a fortune a few years back on Xray equipment that could scan nearly all the containers coming in rather than the pitifully few that used to be checked manually? Is that equipment in use? Has it worked?

    I suspect the Masters degree was added to the job description merely to raise the amount of salary attached to the post to try to really attract high calibre applicants rather than just the seniors presently in Customs who may be worthy persons but have been there since they left school and are out of touch with anything other than tarriffs and what's written down in their little books that they can slavishly follow. (And who could not pass the assessment tests). It was a silly idea to demand a Masters and it has backfired and deservedly so for the reasons you give and also others both in the LA and in other posts on this CNS site.

    But that should not mean the politicians get to say who they think should be head of Customs or any other position in the civil service. God help us if that ever happens. Nor, arguably, should the only qualification be a Caymanian birth certificate. But if, on the other hand,  that is to be the case, then let us just say so upfront and appoint a Caymanian whether they can pass tests or not and let them get on with it and let us all stop this constant politicking/finger pointing/anti expat/bitching which seems to consume so much time and energy these days and generates so much social divisiveness.

    • FUZZY says:

      To;Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 23/10/2013 – 09:59                                   The author of this article has indeed produced a well written ,objective,and articulate viewpoint,unfortunately the same is not true of your comment.You got out of the starting blocks in good fashion,but kept running into hurdles as you advanced (hurdles caused by your anti Cayman biasI might add)) so much so that at the end you fell flat on your face. In your first paragraph (the starting blocks) you rightly questioned whether or not radar equipment was in use or had it worked .                                            However in the second paragraph, you ran into your first hurdle when you offered this unflattering opinion of seniors presently in Customs "who may be worthy persons but have been there since they left school and are out of touch with anything other than tarriffs and what's written down in their little books that they can slavishly follow" which suggests that you believe their experience counts for nothing. You also spoke out against the requirement for a masters degree when you said  "It was a silly idea to demand a Masters " whereas the writer of the viewpoint stated "Whilst the requirement of a graduate degree is a reasonable expectation of the potential post-holder, for a position that emphases border security the need for law enforcement experience is equally as important." So what qualifiactions would you require of your ideal candidate since experience means that they are out of touch,and the requirement of a Masters is a silly idea.                                                                    In your third paragraph your objectivity  took flight,and you really hit the hurdle hard and fell flat when you stated " Nor, arguably, should the only qualification be a Caymanian birth certificate." .No one suggested that ,so obviously this is your bias showing through.Then you proceeded to insult Caymanians when you say " if, on the other hand,  that is to be the case, then let us just say so upfront and appoint a Caymanian whether they can pass tests or not and let them get on with it".Note ,you did not specify this test but rather you spoke of "tests" plural,suggesting that Caymanians in general are incapable of passing tests,in other words they are all dumb. Again this is your anti Caymanian bias coming through.Then finally you say  "let us all stop this constant politicking/finger pointing/antiexpat/bitching which seems to consume so much time and energy these days and generates so much social divisiveness." I could have agreed with you ,had you added "anti Caymanian " right next to anti expat in this last phrase  ,but again you could not help yourself and so you let your bias show.So I will end this by asking "Can we just try to get along?"

      • Anonymous says:

        Sorry, FUZZY, but I think 9:59's comments are more persuasive than your attack on your version of them.