Police complaints authority suggested

A three-member Police Public Complaints Authority would be created to investigate complaints against Royal Cayman Islands Police officers, if a revised Police Law is approved by the Legislative Assembly.

Although the RCIPS does have its own complaints and discipline department, Cayman does not have a formal, independent body with a mandate to look into claims of police misconduct.

The proposal gives authority members essentially the same investigative powers as police officers, although police officers and former officers who have left the service within the past seven years cannot be appointed to serve on the authority.

Legislative Assembly members, as well as those who have been members and candidates for election within seven years of their prospective appointment are also not eligible.

The Cayman Islands Governor is responsible for appointing the three authority members, including the chairman. Those members will also be assisted by a staff, the potential size and cost of which was not set out in the Police Bill (2008 Revision).

The authority, as proposed, would have no direct power to discipline police officers. Any findings and recommendations it makes on specific cases would be forwarded to the police commissioner for review. Also, any evidence of criminal wrong-doing uncovered during a review must be passed to the Attorney General, according to the bill.

The Police Public Complaints Authority does not replace the internal case review processes that exist within the RCIPS, nor will it handle matters that would be investigated by the Cayman Islands Complaints Commissioner. By law, the complaints commissioner cannot investigate police-related matters.

The proposal, which is expected to come before the Legislative Assembly later this year, gives the authority the power to initiate its own investigations if members believe the case is of sufficient gravity or if there are exceptional circumstances involved.

Any complaint involving the death or serious injury of a person, which allegedly occurred because of the conduct of a police officer, would be subject to review by the authority, as well as any other type of complaint deemed worthy of investigation.

All requests for information made by the authority, including police documents that are relevant to a particular case, must be granted. In cases where such requests are not granted, the authority can apply to a Justice of the Peace for a search warrant.

Making false statements to authority members or staff, or obstructing its investigations are considered crimes punishable by up to a year in prison upon conviction. Authority members are also under strict confidentiality guidelines regarding the handling of all information they obtain.

The authority chairman is expected to compile a report on the agency’s activities in the course of a budget year and provide the governor with the details of that work within three months of the end of the year.

That report will become a public document when it is tabled in the Legislative Assembly.

No restrictions or guidance are given under the Police Bill (2008 Revision) as to what qualifications members of the Police Public Complaints Authority should possess. Other than the restrictions against nominating police officers, former police officers, lawmakers, former lawmakers and former political candidates; the law also prohibits membership of individuals who are bankrupt, or who have been convicted of criminal offences involving dishonesty or moral turpitude.

The authority members will not be subject to the direct control of anyone within or outside of government, other than the governor who can revoke appointments for various reasons set out in the bill.

The complaints process also allows for informal resolution between officers and those who are making the complaint. If both parties agree to a resolution, the complaint does not go on the officer’s permanent record. However, the authority could still proceed with an investigation in cases where it was believed appropriate to do so.