Civilians would oversee police

Constitutional issues

Under UDP plan

Members of the opposition United Democratic Party said Tuesday that an independent civilian oversight authority should be created to make recommendations regarding police matters.

Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said the committee should consist of community members of good reputation and standing. They would help ensure accountability, increase public confidence in police, and monitor policy and budget decisions

‘Such a body would be appointed by the governor and should be as non-political as possible,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘I’m trying to find a middle ground.’

The civilian oversight authority would have many of the same functions as the National Security Council, which has been proposed by the ruling People’s Progressive Movement. However, the council as proposed by the PPM would consist of high-ranking elected and appointed government officials. The police would also be placed under some requirements to follow its policy directives.

The civilian oversight board, as proposed by UDP members, would only have the power to recommend and would be made up of ‘a good cross section of citizens from all areas of the country,’ according to Mr. Bush.

The opposition party’s proposal was born partly out of the recent public concern over a number of high-profile crimes that have occurred in Cayman, and partly because it opposes the creation of a National Security Council, which Mr. Bush has referred to as ‘a grab for power.’

‘It is most expedient for them (the PPM)…in the face of some natural public outcry, to blame police and use these serious situations to say ‘they must have control,” Mr. Bush said.

‘We do not accept that the police are always wrong and that every time people make some claim against them (it) is always right. But we want an impartial body to look into it. Police must show respect for citizens and must not abuse the citizen’s right to privacy or the right to peacefully enjoy their property.’

The National Security Council, as proposed by the PPM would be made up of three appointed officials, including the governor, deputy governor and attorney general, and three elected members of parliament, including the premier.

Members of the PPM government have complained for months that elected ministers essentially don’t have a say in police policies and strategies. Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said last week that government has no way to effectively judge whether police are providing value for money.

Education Minister Alden McLaughlin has previously said that there is no requirement for the police service even to brief elected ministers before making policy decisions.

‘(Constituents) expect that the elected government is responsible and we feel responsible,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘But we’re eunuchs as far as the constitution is concerned.’ (See Caymanian Compass, 28 February)

However, Mr. Bush, a former Leader of Government Business, said his administration did get to address its questions to the police commissioner in Executive Council (Cabinet) meetings.

‘They have never refused to bring the commissioner to the Cabinet to explain what is going on in the country,’ he said, adding that those discussions were always held in strict confidence.

In fact, Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan recently said he had met with the Cabinet, including elected members, several times since January. He also said Governor Stuart Jack had offered for Mr. Tibbetts to attend weekly police briefings.

It was unclear at press time whether Mr. Tibbetts had attended any of those closed-door sessions.

In recent public statements, Mr. Tibbetts has struck a much more conciliatory tone with police, urging the public to cooperate with investigators in several high-profile crimes. He also noted the government’s support for law enforcement amounted to 10s of millions of dollars put into the police budget since the PPM took office less than three years ago.

‘Since being elected, this government has voted more than 50 million dollars to provide the RCIPS with the necessary resources to carry out its job,’ Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts said. ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’