Three top-ranking Cayman Islands police officers, including Commissioner Stuart Kernohan have been placed on required leave by Governor Stuart Jack.
The announcement was made during a Thursday morning press briefing. Governor Jack named UK Metropolitan police force veteran David George as acting commissioner for the duration of what he described as a ‘temporary removal’ of the three officers.
Deputy Commissioner Rudi Dixon and Chief Superintendent John Jones were also required to go on leave.
‘The decision to put these officers on required leave was made to protect the integrity of enquiries to be made,’ Governor Jack said. ‘The action today does not indicate that we have serious problems within our police.’
The specific reasons the three men were placed on leave were not immediately clear. However, the UK police inspector in charge of the case stressed that none of the three were considered to be under investigation.
‘In respect to the Commissioner (Kernohan), John Jones and Deputy Commissioner Dixon, there is no investigation taking place at this moment in time,’ said Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger.
Mr. Bridger, also a veteran of the UK Metropolitan police, said he has actually been on island since last year investigating criminal allegations unrelated to the three top officers who were placed on leave.
He said those allegations were made against Cayman Net News editor Desmond Seales, and Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis.
‘These allegations were that over a two year period, these individuals were involved in a corrupt relationship,’ Mr. Bridger said. ‘There were 17 separate allegations.’
‘Had the allegations been true, they would have had the potential to undermine the criminal justice process of this country and put operational officers’ safety at risk. They were serious allegations.’
However, Mr. Bridger said following his review both Mr. Seales and Mr. Ennis were found to be ‘completely innocent’ of the allegations. He added that his investigation prevented the two men from being ‘unfairly and inappropriately’ accused of criminality.
‘In the course of the investigation…other information has come to light that the Governor has asked me to look into,’ Mr. Bridger said. ‘As a consequence of the initial enquiries, the Governor has had to take the difficult decision (to place Messrs. Kernohan, Dixon, and Jones on leave).’
Governor Jack said the three men were placed on leave to ‘facilitate’ enquires being made by the UK police.
Mr. Bridger said one man was arrested Thursday morning in connection with the investigation that UK officers have been conducting here since last year.
The man who was arrested was identified to the Caymanian Compass by two separate law enforcement sources as former MLA and current Net News corporate affairs manager Lyndon Martin. He was said to be cooperating with officers in their investigation and has not been charged with any crimes.
Attempts to reach Mr. Martin at the offices of the Cayman Net News were not successful by press time Thursday.
Mr. Bridger was asked why Mr. Ennis, also a top-ranking member of the RCIPS, was not placed on leave during the earlier stages of the probe. He said at that point, the investigation was not out in the open and that he made a judgment call that it was appropriate for the RCIPS Deputy Commissioner to remain in place.
‘Quite quickly, I came to the judgment they were probably just not truthful allegations,’ Mr. Bridger said.
The Governor’s decision has at least temporarily cost the RCIPS two of its three top commanders. The third, Mr. Ennis, was formerly a subject of the investigation although he has now been cleared.
Mr. Jack said it was necessary to bring in someone of Mr. George’s experience to provide a steady hand to lead the police service.
‘We will do our utmost to ensure that the community continue to have greater confidence in the RCIPS,’ Governor Jack said.
Mr. Bridger said it would be very difficult to determine how much longer his investigation would take.
Mr. George, the acting commissioner, said he considered his appointment by the Governor a great honour.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts made a brief public statement following the Governor’s announcement which urged Caymanians to support the police force. He said Cabinet members were satisfied RCIPS functions would not be compromised by the decision to place the three police commanders on leave.