Sanitizing the truth serves no purpose

| 14/07/2021 | 54 Comments

(CNS): There has been some criticism of CNS for using a photo of a murder victim holding a shotgun. In an article published Monday, we reported that the RCIPS had officially identified Wayne Eron McLean (26) as the man who was killed in a shootout last Thursday at Vic’s Bar. In the picture of the victim, which had already been widely circulated on social media, he appears to be standing in a beauty salon holding the weapon. Sadly, it was an image of himself that he chose to project to the world.

One commenter said, “If you knew him, you’d know he wasn’t a ‘thug’ or anything of that nature. He surely never ‘lived by the sword’. Photos like these feed into a disappointing stereotype that’s been present for decades…”

Another comment critical of our use of this particular photo was this: “Regardless of what Wayne was involved in, legal or illegal, I do agree that using pictures like the one used for this article doesn’t encourage the public to view him as anything other than a ‘gangster’, which makes it harder for people to want his killer found. In a sense, it does vilify the victim, and makes it seem as though his murder just ‘wasn’t as bad’ or it was warranted.” (See here)

It appears that the RCIPS has received the same complaint because yesterday afternoon, more than a day after the article was posted, they told us by email that, “The use of this photograph has the possibility of discouraging witnesses from providing information on these matters and the depiction of the victim dehumanises him.”

A police communications spokesperson also said, “We therefore recommend that you change the photo, we note that this has also been recommended by your viewers and supporters in the comments.” However, they ignored the reaction of other readers to those comments in replies and thumbs up/down votes, which overwhelmingly disagreed with them.

Firstly, as members of the community, we offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of all victims. Our hearts always drop when we have to report on the murder of young men in whatever circumstances and we hope that the killers are found, that justice is done and the cycle of violence ends. We also acknowledge the views expressed in these comments as valid.

But as members of the media we have a job to do and sanitizing the truth is not the answer, even when this is requested by the RCIPS.

We have no reason to believe that Wayne McLean was a gang member but the photo suggests that, like many other young men in the Cayman Islands, he at least flirted with the image of being one. Nor is it suggested that he was the cause of his own death or was in any way deserving of such fate, and we (the media and the community) do not yet know if he was the intended victim or was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, the nightmare of every parent.

However, society is not improved when dangers are ignored. There are risks involved in being in certain places at certain times and being associated with a certain lifestyle. Making bad choices does not necessarily make someone a bad person and many people reading this might cringe at some of the things done as young adults.

Still, a life that is ruined by such shootings, whether it’s the shooter or the shot, means that the community has failed them as individuals and another generation of young people. Truman Bodden’s assertion in the 1980s that there are no gangs in the Cayman Islands, only “groups”, merely swept a growing problem under the rug. Since then, although the existence of gangs here is no longer contested, little has been done to tackle the roots of the problem.

Yolande Forde’s 2006 report, “Pre-Disposing Factors to Criminality in the Cayman Islands”, which is posted in the CNS Library, is required reading. In her introduction she wrote: “Every time a major crime is committed e.g. a bank robbery or a heinous murder, there is a public outcry about the horror of the incident but, comparatively, very little attention is paid to the underlying determinants of criminal behaviour. But crime does not commit itself; behind every criminal act is a person.”

We’re not conflating the assailant with the assailed, and stress that Wayne was the victim in this incident, but all too often the cycles of violence are tit-for-tat crimes and to stem the flow we have to look at the world in which he lived.

The police are given the job of catching criminals years, sometimes decades, after the problems begin. Although community policing has a clear role to play, police officers are not social workers, nor should they be expected to be. Forde placed considerable focus on intervention during school years, but educators cannot solve issues that stem from either home life or outside factors that suck children and young people into a world of bad choices and risk.

Parenting a teenager is the most difficult job in the world. And while some people are not equipped to have children, even the most loving parents can lose a child to drugs or crime or a hundred other traps that life leaves for them.

As Forde wrote of troubled children, “[I]t is important to recognize the fact that they remain with us and become our thieves, our rapists, our drug dealers, our murderers. They are not going anywhere. Even when they are imprisoned, it is usually only for a time. They return. They stay within the limited confines of this island and become the criminal element that places us and our families at risk.”

We, as a society, cannot look away and pretend that what is happening is not happening or that it is not a problem for all of us, however inconvenient the truth might be.

To address the criticisms of the RCIPS specifically, it is a giant leap of logic to conclude that the picture we chose will discourage people from coming forward with information. That same article noted how anonymous tips to Cayman Crimestoppers have dried up, even with a healthy reward, and the police are constantly bewailing the fact that it is hard to get witnesses, and even when they do they have been known to change their minds before trial.

It stands to reason that anyone with information was at the scene at the time, or knew Wayne or knew others involved, and has very likely seen the picture used by CNS on social media already. This means that if they choose not to come forward it’s because they don’t want to “snitch” or they are afraid of retaliation or have no trust in the police or the justice system. Trying to blame the media for this is disingenuous.

The police spokesperson also said that “we do not make it a habit of influencing the direction of your journalism”, but recently they have tried to do so on several occasions, and this is not healthy for our democratic society.

We will always consider requests from the police and really don’t want to make their job harder, but “recommendations” to the media seems like overreach. We share the same goals of reporting on crime and the work of the police accurately, but the RCIPS must also fully respect the importance of an independent media.

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Category: Crime, Viewpoint

Comments (54)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    CNS:A shootout entails more than one gun. This was a shooting.
    You guys aren’t the best with terms and definitions

  2. Anonymous says:

    cns: maybe run a poll to see how many people have confidence in the basic competence of the RCIPS?

  3. Anonymous says:

    the police farce can go take a jump…..they can’t even do the basics of traffic rule enforcement.

  4. Anonymous says:

    If one of my “friends” was digging deep into my Facebook albums, they might also find some old pictures of me, maybe even one of me at a gun range in Las Vegas holding a fully-licensed machine gun, but one shouldn’t assume that the photo was taken in Cayman, or that I am necessarily a gangster, or a member of the NRA, or own such a thing. There are all kinds of people of all stripes with gun photos buried in their social media albums. Isn’t there a sharp-shooting McLean that runs the fully-legal Cayman Gun Club? A relation maybe?

  5. Tom says:

    CNS states, “Still, a life that is ruined by such shootings, whether it’s the shooter or the shot, means that the community has failed them as individuals and another generation of young people.” Blaming the community contradicts self governance. Does environment contribute to one’s behavior and beliefs? Of course. But environment does not automatically condemn a person to criminality. Many of us have grown up in horrible environments, including me. The majority of the people I knew in my neighborhood in the US grew up to be responsible citizens. Blaming the community is akin to blaming ice cream for weight gain. In the end, we must assume responsibility for our behavior or we risk becoming a smaller version of a US major city.

    Truman Bodden’s assertion in the 1980s that there are no gangs in the Cayman Islands, only “groups”, merely swept a growing problem under the rug. Since then, although the existence of gangs here is no longer contested, little has been done to tackle the roots of the problem.

  6. Anonymous says:

    So – what efforts are the police making to track down that shotgun before it is used on someone else?

  7. Anonymous says:

    A picture of Wayne holding an illegal shotgun is disturbing in itself. this he was such a nice person maybe he was but he chose his path. shotguns are illegal without a permit in the cayman islands is illegal. no getting around that. so where did the gun come from why is he in possession of it. when one posts a picture of one holding an illegal firearm is making a statement. why not post a picture day at the beach day with your family?? he was a thug and paid the price

  8. Anonymous says:

    Excellent article. Not related to it but if you pose with a gun like this when they come for you they are coming with a bigger gun.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The police here can be so infantile. Any proper spokesperson with half a brain would know this was the wrong way to handle this situation.

  10. Anonymous says:

    CNS, I give you so much credit for the way you respond to commenters and the RCIPS.

    “….as members of the media we have a job to do and sanitizing the truth is not the answer, even when this is requested by the RCIPS.” So so true!!!!

    • Cayguy says:

      This is true. Rcips have a lot of work to do in fully gaining the communities trust. People that have information may not come forward as they feel they are not protected. Cops have to go back to the drawing board to see where they went wrong many years ago and people lost confidence. Recommend they prove to the community they have their best interest.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps if the RCIPS arrested persons providing evidence of themselves in possession of illegal firearms on social media then witnesses would be more forthcoming? Just a thought.

    • Anonymous says:

      So true! Possession of the firearm itself is an illegal act and when the person posts a picture of themselves in social media with the weapon, don’t the police have all the evidence they need to prosecute and lock them up (and take the gun off the street)?

      • Anonymous says:

        Prove the photo is genuine. Prove the gun isn’t an imitation. Prove when the image was taken. Prove where the image was taken… it’s easy to say it’s a slam dunk, and in all likelihood the image shows a man brandishing an illegal firearm in Cayman, but proving it to secure a conviction is not that simple.

        • Anonymous says:

          An imitation gun is also illegal. The shop is known. The dude is known. The internet details are on his phone. It’s pretty simple. The difficulty is that he is no longer with us, but the police should be on the lookout for similar posts by others.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately I feel that CNS has got it wrong on this occasion.

    On the assumption that this photograph was selected from a number of available images of the deceased, why was this one in particular used, given its clear connotations? If there is other information available to CNS suggesting that the deceased was involved in criminal gangs or illegal firearms then the image might be justified, and that information ought also to have been reported. The fact that no such information has been reported, however, suggests that none is available. It therefore appears that the photo was chosen principally because of its undoubted visual impact, notwithstanding the lack of basis upon which to conclude that it was an accurate and fair representation of the deceased.

    The use of a photo which might on its face give the powerful impression of involvement in a criminal lifestyle without any corroborating evidence is open to criticism as potentially misleading. The fact that the photo is in public circulation elsewhere doesn’t in itself justify its further use by CNS.

    It is not a particularly large logical leap to infer that the community as a whole might be less concerned about a criminal being shot than they would be a blameless civilian- on any analysis the use of a photograph which might tend to suggest that a victim was a member of the first category is not likely to encourage witnesses to come forward as against a more neutral image.

    This is not to minimise the seriousness of illegal firearms, or the fundamental importance of looking to the root causes of gun violence as opposed to wholly reactive measures. However, the use of this particular photograph in the apparent absence of further support for the accuracy of the image that it portrays was, arguably, an error of judgment.

    • Anonymous says:

      The person in the photo was at that time in possession of an illegal firearm – a very serious criminal offense. He presumably voluntarily chose to pose with that shotgun and was therefore involved in criminal activity. The photo is entirely appropriate.

      • Anonymous says:

        It is a single photo, taken in an unknown location, at an unknown time, in unknown circumstances. To then use it, without any additional material, as representing some sort of ‘truth’ about the individual concerned is not responsible.

        Put another way, had CNS come into possession of this photograph in circumstances where the individual was still alive, would they have run a story indicating that the individual was involved in serious criminal conduct, or reported the matter to the police? I would expect that the answer to both questions would be no, because in each case they would be aware that the evidence was inadequate.

        CNS: That’s a lot of assumptions there, buddy, and not very logical in a clutching at straws kind of way. You don’t need to have supporting evidence to report something suspicious to the police. 1) They are always asking people to report what they know, however incidental, and 2) it’s their job to find the supporting evidence if they think it’s a crime or to dismiss it if they don’t. So anyone who sees a photo on social media of anyone doing anything illegal can report it to the police. Suggesting otherwise is a bit mad. I don’t think the RCIPS would thank you for that.

        Your other question – would we run an article accusing someone of a crime without any proof – is also a illogical. No, but the question has nothing to do with the matter in hand. Running a picture is just that. It’s not an accusation.

        No, we don’t trawl through social media to find incriminating pictures, but yes, if someone is arrested or charged with a crime and they had a picture on social media of themselves carrying a shotgun, we would use that. That’s not “coming into possession of a photograph”. They are there for all the world to see.

        • Anonymous says:

          Thank you CNS

        • Anonymous says:

          What assumptions exactly, CNS? Surely its the opposite- the post was unwilling to assume the picture showed illegal conduct without knowing the circumstances in which it was taken. You misunderstand the point raised, which is whether or not it was responsible journalism to use that picture in the context of that story.

          “Running a picture is just that. It’s not an accusation”. So why that particular picture then? Why, as you accept, would you choose a similar picture if available in the case of someone arrested or charged with a crime? The answer is that you are inviting people to draw particular conclusions about the lifestyle and actions of the person shown from that picture- “this person is charged with a crime and look, here they are looking like a criminal”. That is either an accusation, or so close to one as to make no difference, and to claim that it is just a picture is disingenuous.

          To test that, let’s say that the story was something positive, like a person having done some good work for charity. If you were aware there was a picture out there on social of that person carrying a shotgun, would you use it to illustrate that story? The answer is of course not, and the reason is that you would not want to portray the subject in a negative light. But on your argument it is just a picture and no issue would arise.

          In this case, the deceased was the victim, not the perpetrator, of the crime which is the subject of the story, and deserved better than the victim-blaming which was inherent in the use of that picture.

          You are entitled to your views, of course, and there is nothing wrong with disagreeing. I simply think that this time (and unusually) you got it wrong.

          • Anonymous says:

            The public are entitled to be aware of the pieces of this puzzle. I, for example, would like to know where that gun is now.

        • Anon1 says:

          Thanks for your candor CNS. Too many people on here try to paint a picture of this guy in goody two shoes and Sunday suit. Posing with what could very well be an illegal firearm shows the brazeness of this act. God give his family support and justice as no one deserves such a tragic end.

      • Matt says:

        Clearly you have zero knowledge of the principle of “beyond all reasonable doubt.” There is absolutely no proof that the weapon held was an “illegal firearm.” It could have been a legally held weapon and simply held by Wayne for the photo or it could have been a replica / de activated weapon.
        While i agree with the principles of open and honest reporting, for the reasons articulated by anon @1927 this has the air of click bait journalism and choosing a photo for the shock value rather than any disingenuous attempt at “open journalism.”
        Well written article tho !

    • Anonymous says:

      Might give an impression of a criminal lifestyle without any corroborating evidence? What corroborating evidence do you need numb nuts – it’s an illegal firearm! And it was posted by the guy himself, so no argument about it being Photoshopped.

    • Anonymous says:

      Exactly, this was the same tactic used by Time Magazine when they darkened the picture of OJ Simpson to make him look “more criminal”. They too was severely criticized.

  13. Concerned says:

    CNS – Why didn’t you ask the police why they didn’t do something about that image? Did they investigate it to try and find the weapon? Did they find the location of the photo and search it and the owners of that oremises and their home addresses, did they arrest on suspicion of him being in possession of an illegal firearm.. and on and on. It seems to me RCIPS are exactly the type of organisation that rather than face the truth prefers to cover things like this up. On balance I think it was probably wrong of you to use it as a picture paints a thousand words. You left it to be interpreted by the reader. However, it is clearly relevant and if I were you I would ask them if they’ve identified the scene the image was taken in, if they’ve reviewed the intelligence on the victim as well as any suspect and what proactive steps they have taken to find that weapon. My money is on them having done nothing. Because they’re just not aggressive enough in resolving serious crime; in fact any crime. They need to up their game significantly. People of Cayman you need to DEMAND more from RCIPS because they are letting you down day in and day out. Collectively they are institutionally inept, individualky they are untrained, inexperienced coat hangers carrying a uniform.
    Go here to ask the UK to review tgeir performance, I can guarantee they will be in special measures by the end of the review.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Cayman Islands Constitution –

    11.—(1) No person shall be hindered by government in the enjoyment of his or her freedom of expression, which includes freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference, and freedom from interference with his or her correspondence or other means of communication.

    Government in that context includes all branches of government – even the police.

  15. Anonymous says:

    What a fantastic article from CNS. As an expat of 10+ years in Cayman I love how CNS moderate comments, reply when necessary with fact checks, and generally are liberal in allowing as many viewpoints and reader comments as possible to be aired online. A vital independent and free news service on our islands. Regarding this article it is spot on… for most of us the idea of there being a photo anywhere of us posing with a shotgun is foreign and it does indeed say a lot, and is a more than acceptable photograph to publish in the context.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Wayne was a wonderful person who would do anything for anyone. He will be missed by all his friends.

    • Anon says:

      If that is true why does he have photos of him in a salon holding an illegal gun? That is not a wonderful person in any civilized society.

    • Anonymous says:

      A Google search will turn up a list of wonderful things that Pablo Escobar did for many people in Medellin, but nobody conflates those good deeds with him being a wonderful person.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Thank you CNS. It is sad that you felt the need to publish your excellent explanation and sadder still that the police sought to gag the story.

    CNS: To be fair, this time the RCIPS did not complain about the story, just the picture.

  18. Anonymous says:


  19. Anonymous says:

    Whether Mr McLean – a grown man, not a troubled teenager – was a gang member or flirted with the image is not as relevant as the fact that he posted photographic evidence of himself in possession of an illegal firearm or replica firearm, an act which carries a 10 year prison sentence in Cayman. And despite being a publicly available image, something he was never charged with by the same RCIPS who don’t like you now posting it on CNS. What next, they would prefer no one mentioned the number of rounds fired, the number of victims, or the fact that it even happened, because it may deter witnesses? SMH.

    I tell you what deters witnesses; the fact that there are people out there capable of acts of violence on this scale, and that they have ZERO confidence in RCIPS to protect them from them. That’s the sad truth. I am sure not everyone in that bar was a criminal or sided with the shooter – but you can bet your boots 100% of the people in that bar have no confidence that if they give evidence they won’t be joining Mr McLean. That is a far bigger issue than whether the guy that was shot deserves their sympathy or not.

    • nauticalone345 says:

      You’re spot on!….unfortunately!

      Thank you CNS for your balanced and “brave” journalism.

  20. Once a Keystone always a Keystone says:

    Well put, you comments capture some disturbing truths. And it is disturbing to see that in almost every case like the last two mass shootings very few facts are made public by the RCIPS. This may or may not be protecting compiling a case against the perpetrators but it does lead the public to believe the RCIPS has few if any solid leads and little help from actual eyewitnesses. This is not a very encouraging situation all round and the RCIPS can’t help but continually put their foot in it.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Completely agree cns! Let us have the truth! Too many people on this island making excuses and sweeping things under rugs

  22. 001 says:

    Thank you CNS! At no time should the police or any government entity have the power to control or sway the media. When they even feel they have the power to do so, we have no doubt lost our ‘democratic society”. First may God rest Wayne soul. A cool and caring individual and someone I could call a friend. Although it is true most would not associate Wayne with being a ‘gangster’ or ‘badman’ but instead would likely describe him in a positive manner. (Down to earth, Funny, always someone to get a laugh with… etc.) It is also true that the photo of Wayne used in the CNS report was posted by Wayne and publicly available. So at the end of the day it is no one else to blame but Wayne. I’m sure he never intend for that photo to reach where it did and for him to be remembered in this way. But also for whoever at CNS decided to post that photo along with the article clearly took no consideration into how it would feel for this young mans mother to know this is how her son will be remembered. And that is a shame. Though this maybe the case I fully support and am proud CNS in standing their ground and not letting the Cayman Islands Police or CI Gov influence their direction of journalism.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Thankyou CNS. Let the ignorant follow the ignorant and let the educated follow intelligence. Not everyone here voted for Bush.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Eloquently put CNS as always. A trustworthy news outlet if ever there was one.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Never mind that his sister uses the very same picture in her publicly viewable memorial video..

  26. Anonymous says:

    Very well put CNS! The news is supposed to put out the truth no matter how ugly. Cherry-picking and dancing vaguely around difficult subjects helps no one. I have lost faith in a number of news services because they do just that – chop and change. The truth hurts sometimes, but how can we grow as a society if we don’t acknowledge it and try to change? Hurt feelings are better than corpses.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Well said CNS, well said

  28. Anonymous says:

    But don’t you understand? They’re all good boys who were forced down their criminal paths by the fact that evil expats stole the managerial jobs they so richly deserved. It’s not the fault of parenting or the schools and their social promotion policies or the prevailing sense of entitlement of being born Caymanian. It’s the fault of the evil expats. And Dart.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Bravo, CNS !! Ignore these wasted nights in RCIPS (and elsewhere) and keep doing what you are doing; printing the truth and letting us comment on it.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Very well said!

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