Today’s Editorial for August 20: Oversight of police

If lawmakers approve a proposed Police Public Complaints Authority bill, residents in the Cayman Islands will be assured that complaints they make against law enforcement are being followed up.

We gather that is the intent of the bill.

It comes at a time when there is upheaval at the Royal Cayman Islands Police Department with Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan and Chief Superintendent John Jones being removed from office along with Deputy Police Commissioner Rudolph Dixon.

Mr. Kernohan is in Scotland and Mr. Jones is in Cayman. Both are still receiving full pay since their removal from office in March. Mr. Dixon has been charged with two counts of misconduct in a public office and two counts of doing an act tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice.

Now we’ve learned that an arrest warrant has been issued for a police officer who has failed to attend Summary Court for a trial.

There have also been many other court cases in which shoddy police work has lead to not guilty verdicts.

Add this to a long occurring backdrop of a public afraid to complain about police actions for fear of reprisal and you can see how the formation of a police complaints authority could be justified.

While the RCIPS does have an internal complaints and discipline department, there is a contention that the investigations aren’t always fair.

It’s important to have a body separate from the police themselves to review complaints.

Civilian review was initially developed as a counter to the charge that police internal investigations were compromised by the natural tendency to close ranks and cover-up misconduct.

The importance of effective police accountability can hardly be overstated. It is a cornerstone of democracy and the rule of law.

If this new authority in Cayman is properly formed and managed, it can be an effective tool to ensure all police activity is legal and above board.

But it can also be misused by vengeful members of the public who use it to file false claims against innocent officers they have a grudge with.

We are curious about how many people will be employed to run this authority and who will be chosen as chairman. The public also needs to know just how much this authority is going to cost the country.

If done properly, this new authority can be of great benefit to the public in the Cayman Islands. If done poorly, it can be just another area where government is throwing away money and creating more civil service jobs.