What a difference a few days makes.
On Tuesday evening, Acting Police Commissioner James Smith praised Cayman Islands Cabinet ministers for backing two separate investigations of alleged police misconduct within the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
‘I am pleased to report that Cabinet continues to be very supportive of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service and will continue to fund the two investigations,’ Mr. Smith said in a prepared statement.
Cabinet ministers had a decidedly different version of events on Thursday morning.
‘I think the commissioner may have exaggerated a bit if he conveyed the impression the Cabinet was particularly enthusiastic about the proposal,’ Education Minister Alden McLaughlin said.
Police officers who originally hail from the United Kingdom have been in Cayman since September 2007 investigating alleged corruption within RCIPS. That investigation has led to the removal of three top police commanders as well as criminal charges against a deputy police commissioner and a former Cayman Islands lawmaker.
Legislators have been critical over the last several months about the probe. Officers’ work has led to the wrongful arrest of a Grand Court judge as well as at least two instances where legal action was taken against the government by those arrested in connection with the case.
Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts was at pains Thursday to state that Cabinet’s decision to accept the funding was not the final word on the matter.
The amount requested, CI $915,810, will still have to receive approval from the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee. That’s expected to occur within the next two weeks.
That request would push the total cost of the two separate police investigations to nearly $4 million.
It has generally been rare in the past two years for the Legislative Assembly, where the ruling government currently has a 12-5 voting majority, to go against a funding request that is supported by Cabinet.
Ministers would not speculate whether that would be the case for this request, but said it was likely whoever the police sent to the committee to answer questions about it would be subjected to intense questioning about the matter.
‘I sometimes enjoy the game,’ Mr. Tibbetts said.
Ministers said Mr. Smith agreed, as they had asked, to remove senior investigator Martin Bridger from the corruption probe. Elected officials have recently heaped blame upon Mr. Bridger for certain mistakes made in the investigation, including the September arrest of Justice Alexander Henderson which was subsequently ruled illegal.
They also asked to be informed about the second phase of the investigation, dubbed Operation Cealt, when it is brought to a conclusion.
‘If the commissioner and governor do not play the game correctly, Cabinet’s support for this project will fall away,’ Mr. McLaughlin said.