Law enforcement in the Cayman Islands was not formally established until 1907, when legislation was passed founding a police service. At that time the population of all three islands that comprise the present-day U.K. Overseas Territory – Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman – totaled slightly more than 5,000. The nascent police force was initially commanded by a British Inspector and four local constables, whose police duties included acting as postal and customs officials, guarding short-term prisoners in jail (as there was no prison) and hoisting the Cayman Islands flag over government buildings, in addition to investigating crime. In general, offences during this period were of a trivial nature.
Until 1962, the Cayman Islands were governed by the British Crown as a colony of Jamaica. In the 1950s the Jamaican police force had reorganized the Cayman Islands’ police force and established the role of a local Chief of Police, which was filled by an experienced officer from Jamaica. With Jamaica’s independence from the British crown in 1962, the Cayman Islands were governed by Britain directly as a colony, and it became more common for British officers to fill the role of Chief of Police (later renamed Commissioner of Police).
In 1959 the police force recruited its first two women constables, who primarily handled cases involving women and children. By 1970 the force was fifty-nine members strong, and constables earned sixty pounds per year on average. In 1978 a five-day work week had been adopted.
Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, visited the Cayman Islands in 1983 and conferred the prefix “Royal” to the Cayman Islands Police Force, which was a great honour for all officers. Throughout the 1980s the police force underwent several more reorganisations as it expanded, and by 1990 it employed 221 officers. During the 1990s several new units emerged, including the Uniform Support Group comprised of armed officers, a Community Relations Department comprised of neighbourhood officers, a Traffic Management Unit, and other units within the detective branch. The establishment of a civilian-staffed Emergency Communications Centre in the mid-1990s enabled police operators to be re-deployed.
An emphasis was also placed on district policing throughout the 1990s, with the opening of police stations in the other areas of Grand Cayman aside from George Town, namely, West Bay, Bodden Town, North Side and East End, as well as on the Sister Islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. The Code of Conduct and Policing Charter were introduced in 1996 and 1997, respectively, which set forth the quality of service required of officers and expected from the community; the organisation also formally changed its title from ‘force’ to ‘service’, and has been referred to as the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) from that point forward.
Throughout the 2000s, the population of the Cayman Islands swelled to nearly 60,000, and the police service grew to nearly 400 officers and 60 support staff. Policing demands also surged, as the local population continued to carry the traditional expectations of police involvement in non-police matters, while the amount of actual crime, in the form of burglaries and some gun violence, increased. In addition, police properties around the islands, especially the police stations in central George Town and West Bay, which were buildings never built to purpose, fell into disrepair. In 2016, a new Police Custody Detention Centre opened on Grand Cayman, ending the use of old cells in George Town Police Station for detention. In 2017 the Cayman Islands Government began discussions around the purchase of a new building to house a new George Town Police Station.
In November 2016 Derek Byrne assumed the role of Commissioner of Police (CoP). He leads a Senior Command Team and is supported by two Deputy Commissioners, Anthony Ennis and Kurt Walton, both veterans of the RCIPS.
2017 marked the 110th anniversary of the founding of a police force in the jurisdiction, and to mark this anniversary, the RCIPS commissioned a retrospective publication that looks back on its rich history, featuring interviews with some of its longest-serving officers. This special publication demonstrates that RCIPS officers have proudly served the Cayman Islands for generations, and that the RCIPS has changed along with the islands themselves to become the proud and professional police service it is today.