November 30, 2021

The Editor Speaks: Social media and the use of police to collect fines.

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If it wasn’t for social media a lot of things that we now see would not be reported.

That is a good thing.

Yes. And no.

I have always had a good respect for our police as a whole. They have a difficult job to do and with a police force approaching 400 and will soon reach 450 there will always be the good officers (the majority) and the ‘others’.

Like in every job, it only takes one bad apple to affect the rest.

The bad apples in the barrels used to be covered up but today this is more difficult.

It takes seconds for video to be recorded thanks to the smart phones that are now so sophisticated they rival expensive cameras.

The latest social media video showing a pregnant woman cursing the seemingly rough treatment by police officers for an offence I know not what, but it must be something really big that warranted more than one officer.

I well remember an incident three years ago in a fast food restaurant in George Town on a Sunday when one of the “local beggars” as my wife (Joan) calls them, this time a woman, asked for money for food. Joan took the woman inside and sat her down at one of the tables. She asked her what she wanted and duly ordered and paid for her food.

The woman would not sit with us but sat on her own quietly eating her food. She had only just started when THREE police officers came in – two huge and very threatening. They immediately went for the woman ordering her out of the restaurant. She said she wanted to eat her burger here but they said she had to come outside. She refused. One of the officers grabbed the woman’s arm.

That’s when Joan got involved. She demanded to know why the woman couldn’t finish her burger and why it needed three male officers to come in and behave with such a threatening manner. Especially as she had bought the woman the burger and as far she was concerned the woman was doing no harm and was peaceful.

Joan was totally ignored as if she wasn’t there. Those of you who know Joan know that was a big mistake. For a start she is the daughter of the last Caymanian Chief of Police, Major Roddy Watler, who would have made these three officers look like dwarfs.

I went and got the manager who told me he had called the police as the woman had been bothering some of the customers. He was sorry now and agreed it was all overkill.

By this time, the woman had got up and gone outside on her own.

I have to record Joan called the officers who followed the lady out, the same term the pregnant woman had called one of the policemen arresting her.

I wish I had had the smart phone I now have.

However, not all the time are video on social media good. The one that went the rounds of the man that was shot dead recently on Eastern Avenue is only one example. I was shocked it even appeared on one of our media outlets until they were told to take it down.

And the ‘fake news’ that goes with the video is also damaging.

I have been preaching with a lonely voice on why the police have this ‘zero tolerance’ approach to the most trivial of ‘crimes’ where a ‘friendly’ warning would suffice. It gives the average law abiding person (the large majority of us) an unfavourable feeling towards the police. It’s not the friendly, neighbourly ‘copper’ who is there to protect us, at all. When it comes to co-operation between ‘them’ and ‘us’ it isn’t going to come.

Therefore, why is it the job of the police to collect fines, mainly traffic ones? I was horrified to read the police release about it this week. It didn’t frighten me, if this was the attempt, to make me pay a fine promptly. It made me angry and brought up another instance I have spoken of before that involved both my wife and I on an unpaid ‘fine’ for a trivial ‘obstruction parking offence’ that clearly wasn’t and dragged on for almost a year. If our new location had been on the summons she would have been dragged off to the court or ‘holding’ camp at Fairbanks, even though she was lying in bed with fractured ribs and a broken sternum, a week in hospital after a horrifying car accident. I kid you not. And, in my opinion, they shouldn’t be the ones to have to do this job.

In view of the lack of response from anyone to my editorials on this I asked local lawyer, Peter Polack and this is his response. He gave me permission to quote him:

“The inherent problem is a failure of the court system to conduct a means test on proposed fines which is done in divorce and maintenance proceedings as well as in deciding if a person may obtain legal aid. So long as the portfolio of judicial affairs force the police to act like bailiffs during the Irish potato famine to collect tens of dollars in fine while expending hundreds of dollars for two officers, transportation, court time and administration there can be no economic argument for such behavior.

“The collection of fines should fall in the same category as a civil debt where a host of other remedies are available such as attachment of earnings or seizure of property without dragging shoeless pregnant woman in an amateurish attempt to recreate Nazi like fascism in the Cayman Islands.

“Warrants of arrest should be reserved for only the most serious of pending offences and arguments about non-compliance of a court order come crashing down on the hard foundation of common sense , liberty of the subject and our constitution awaiting enforcement from the AG in vain.

“The court system is congested precisely because of the robotic repetition of entrenched archaic methods that have no place in the vision of a modern Cayman propounded by the Premier in his strategic plan. It is up to the managers of the court system to devise new methods on minor fines and offences that often provide the tipping point for incarceration and unemployment.

“Alden and Franz cannot lead by themselves and the single government portfolio without oversight must cut according to the available capital available instead of irrational shouts for a new court house in a time of other pressing needs of higher priority.”

Peter Polack

Thank you, Peter, I knew I could rely on you.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) say that they are investigating a video of an arrest which has been making the rounds on social media.

Part of the arrest, which is said to have taken place on February 1, was captured on video.

During the video, the woman being arrested is heard yelling curse words, while telling the officers that she is pregnant.

It is unclear why the woman was being arrested, however, according to woman’s Facebook post, she received a bruise as a result of the arresting officer’s actions.

“This the third time they come over something I went and deal with in front of a judge,” said the woman on Facebook.

“Anybody know these pigs especially the fat one he bruise my arm. And I’m almost due to have my baby,”she added.

The RCIPS in a release said, “ With respect to a video circulating online of an arrest of a woman that took place this morning … the RCIPS has viewed the footage and referred the matter to PSU for an investigation into the full circumstances of the arrest”.

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