The Cayman Islands will again try
to create a public body that handles complaints against police officers. The
last attempt, contained in the draft of the Police Bill, 2008, flopped when the
proposed bill did not come up for a vote in the Legislative Assembly.
The Police Public Complaints
Authority’s creation is again within the latest proposed revision of the Police
Bill, 2010, which was released earlier in the week. There have been some
changes to the plan for the authority since its last iteration.
According to the new Police Bill,
which could come before the legislature as early as next week, the Police
Public Complaints Authority will consist of three people appointed by the
Cayman Islands governor. The three members must be Caymanian and cannot be
members of the Legislative Assembly, or former LA members or individuals who
have held or sought elected office within three years of their appointment to
Retired police officers who were on
the force within three years of their appointment, those with undischarged
bankruptcies, or those convicted of dishonesty offences are also prohibited
from serving as members.
The complaints authority will be
given the power to seek search warrants in the process of gathering information
regarding public complaints involving police officers. The board reports
directly to the commissioner of police, as well as to Cayman’s director of
public prosecutions in cases where evidence of a crime has been uncovered in
the board’s investigation.
The board is also given the power
to continue investigations in certain cases where a member of the public wants
to withdraw a complaint if it believes the withdrawal is a result of threats or
In cases where a complaint has been
made against the police commissioner, the authority would submit its report to
Reports of the authority can also
be given to the police officer the complaint was made against and to the person
who filed the complaint, but only in cases where the authority members consider
it “desirable” to do so. Otherwise, authority reports and information given to
the body cannot be made public. The only public reporting required of the complaints
authority is in an annual summary given to the Legislative Assembly.
Complaints can be made to the
authority either at its office or at a police station. The Police Bill, 2010,
requires officers who receive public complaints to notify the authority of
Once a report on a complaint is
completed, the complaints authority submits its recommendations to the police
commissioner – and the director of public prosecutions where warranted – after
which it would be reviewed.
Depending on the report’s content,
the commissioner can impose sanctions, caution the police officer involved, or
decide that no action is warranted. If the complaint is against the
commissioner, that decision would be made by the governor.
Lying to or obstructing the complaints
authority is considered to be a crime punishable by up to a year in prison or a
$3,000 fine, or both.
Under the bill, the authority would
be given a budget by the Legislative Assembly with appropriate staff to carry
out the functions of the authority. Cost estimates have not been specified.
Legal defence fund
The Police Bill, 2010, also seeks
to create – for the first time – a Legal Protection Fund for police officers.
The fund, under the direction of
the Police Officers Welfare Committee, would provide assistance with legal fees
in matters where various actions have been brought against police officers.
The fund can receive voluntary
donations from private sources and would be made subject to annual audits.