Civilians to handle evidence

Cayman Islands Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan plans to replace police officers with civilian workers in some key jobs which involve the collection and processing of crime scene evidence.

Stuart Kernohan

Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan

At an 18 April media briefing, Commissioner Kernohan said these civilian employees would still work under the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, at least for the near future.

‘We’re civilianising our scientific support section,’ Mr. Kernohan said. ‘We’re currently recruiting individuals (to work) both at the scenes of crime and (as) fingerprint experts to take into what I’ll describe as a more modern policing environment, where it’s not police officers that are providing that service.’

RCIPS Chief Superintendent John Jones later said in a prepared statement that civilians recruited into the Scenes of Crime Department would be highly educated and trained in their areas of expertise. Mr. Jones said trained police officers would remain in charge of all criminal investigations.

‘The preservation of scenes and the on-scene investigations will of course remain the responsibility of experienced sworn police officers who have the investigative skills necessary for this type of work,’ Mr. Jones said in the statement.

Mr. Kernohan raised the issue of civilianisation in response to questions from the Caymanian Compass about a recent court case in which there appeared to be no written statement providing expert fingerprint evidence. Mr. Kernohan said a former RCIPS police sergeant who was the department’s fingerprint expert had not filed that statement by the time the matter was before the court.

In the case, the defendant had been held in prison without bail for several weeks awaiting trial on burglary charges partly because fingerprints taken from the crime scene were initially identified as his own.

After it was discovered that there was no statement on file from the police sergeant who was the fingerprint expert, the defendant’s matter was re-set for 8 May and a magistrate agreed the defendant should be kept in prison because of other evidence against him.

Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis said the sergeant retired from RCIPS 31 March and had not filed the expert witness statement with the court as he was required to do in spite of his retirement.

Mr. Ennis said the situation would be corrected shortly and that the problem should not occur again.

‘We have the wherewithal to provide that service…and we do have other plans in place that will be on board shortly,’ Mr. Ennis said. ‘It’s not a critical problem.’

Commissioner Kernohan said he believed RCIPS would have more than enough people to provide court statements and testimony once the civilian employees were brought in.

‘That’s what most modern services do, and that’s why we’re confident that it won’t happen again,’ Mr. Kernohan said.

‘We have considered carefully…whether this could be done by skilled civilians and we have decided that it can,’ said Chief Superintendent Jones. ‘By doing this we will be able to place officers in positions where their skills and powers are really needed.’

The Commissioner also noted the possibility that the RCIPS scientific support section could eventually be moved under the control of the Cayman Islands Attorney General’s Office.

‘It’s one of the options that we’re looking at…it doesn’t really make an awful lot of difference if the truth be told,’ he said. ‘A crime lab is a crime lab.’

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