What happened to polygraphs?

Representatives of the local police officers’ association said they’re being kept in the dark about the status of dozens of polygraph tests administered to Royal Cayman Islands Police officers and civilian staffers within the past year.

“It is still hanging over our heads,” RCIPS Inspector and Police Association Chairman Rudolph Gordon said during a lengthy interview with the Caymanian Compass last month. “A lot of officers feel that there is this thing overshadowing them: uncertainty.”

The Caymanian Compass first reported in September that dozens of RCIPS officers had been required to take polygraphs – also known as lie detector tests – as part of a “vetting process” by their employers.

Other than a one-line statement sent to the newspaper in September, the police service has steadfastly refused to comment about the initiative and why it was being done.

“We haven’t had anything in terms of how many passed and how many failed [the polygraphs], but what comes back to us is the majority of officers failed,” Mr. Gordon said. “The majority of officers failed, and they’re not sure what their position is. One particular officer….for two and a half hours, he was forced by the polygrapher to admit he committed a serious crime.”

The Royal Cayman Islands Police officers association confirmed earlier this year that some of its members met with Police Commissioner David Baines over officers being polygraph tested. Mr. Gordon said those meetings were generally one-on-one discussions between that officer and the commissioner.

In September, the Caymanian Compass reported that some 40 officers were given the tests, but Mr. Gordon said it was believed that more people had taken the exam, including some civilian employees.

“It is not RCIPS policy to comment on our vetting procedures,” read a statement from the commissioner’s spokesperson that was issued in response to questions from the Compass last year.

A few officers have stated that they were unable obtain the results of polygraph tests they have taken.

Police association board member, Sergeant Betty Ebanks, said she wasn’t aware of any cases that involved police officers or other RCIPS employees being forced to leave the service because of their polygraph test results. However, she said the RCIPS command staff had not communicated with the association regarding the testing of specific individuals.

“Because the polygraph happened, the way it happened, and the results from what we gather happened, the officers….they still feel that things that may happen to them in the organisation, the commissioner or his designates may be treating them differently because of that,” Mrs. Ebanks said. “That is the perception”

“We were told as an association that by ‘X’ time [the police commissioner] would be speaking to all of them [referring to the officers who were polygraph tested],” Mrs. Ebanks said. “We weren’t told who they were. Yet those same officers had to open up and come to us.”

“We have no closure,” Inspector Gordon said. “Whatever the results are, whatever you’re going to be doing in relation to the result of it should be done, but you can’t just have it hanging over the officer’s heads.”

The polygraph tests were among several issues discussed with the police officers’ association as part of an upcoming crime series in the Caymanian Compass.

The series is expected to feature in the newspaper later this year.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t suppose the fact that these tests have no basis in law and would be challenged under UK Human Rights has focus the minds of whoever decided to go ahead with these tests.
    Let’s just remind ourselves of the law here:
    Under Human Rights, only those activities that are allowed by legislation can take place. There is no relevant legislation that would allow the administering of these tests and for any action to be taken in the case of a failure.
    So, whoever in the RCIPS decided to do this dug themselves a very large hole and they are probably wondering, from the darkness at the bottom, how they are going to get out.

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  2. It would be interesting to find out how much this little exercise has cost the RCIPS. Not just in cash terms but also by further disrupting the running of an organisation that still had not really recovered from the negative effects of Operation Tempura.

    The bottom line is that polygraphs are unreliable and their use is banned by the criminal justice system in the UK. It looks, from the comments above, like the POA were caught totally unprepared for something like this and I would predict some interesting human rights claims when they get up to speed on this.

    In the meantime, crime in Cayman continues to rise and this has done little or nothing towards solving the problem. It may may even have made officers reluctant to do their jobs for fear of attracting criticism.

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  3. …only those activities that are allowed by legislation can take place.

    Actually BeachBum what you describe is the sort of situation one finds in Germany, and places farther east in Europe. One needs specific permission to act in any manner and for that reason Germany has about 3 times the number of street signs as any where else in the world. There is no need for them of course, but the concept of needing permission to act is incredibly ingrained to German society.

    On the other hand the Commonwealth nations live under much more open standards and what ever is not specifically criminalized is in fact legal, under the old Latin concept, Nulla Poena Sine Lege – No Penalty Without Law.

    As for Police Services, the members of those services give up a great deal to gain the right to arrest and imprison. They are expected to maintain the highest possible standard of behaviour, including direct answers to questions from senior officers. When statements from differing officers conflict, effort must be made to determine the truth.

    Given the misadventures in Cayman policing over the last few years I am not the least surprised that some people/officers aren’t quite telling the whole truth.

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  4. Beachbum

    You’ve now run into the clash of laws and culture between Britain and the Cayman Islands on the key issue.

    Those human rights laws that would make these polygraph tests illegal in the UK, do not yet directly apply to the Cayman Islands and…

    The CoP of the RCIPS knows this very well…

    Another issue to contend with here is that many members of the RCIPS are not either British citizens, Caymanians or holders of Caymanian status; they are foreign nationals on government contracts.

    The UK citizens have direct protection under the Human Rights Acts 1998, the Caymanians (born and status-holders) have secondary access through an appeal process, to protection under the ECHR statutes.

    But which police officer is going to now call out the CoP on what is, under British law, an illegal action that could cost them their jobs.

    Are you finally beginning to understand what type of society the Cayman Islands really is ?

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  5. OldDiver- Please remember these tests DO NOT WORK. All the scientific evidence supports that view.

    Firery: Of course the issues of the ‘clash of cultures’ should not be underestimated and with the events of suspensions and sackings of senior police officers simply focuses on that, unfortunately.

    However, on the subject of Human Rights – adoption of ECHR , whatever the deny’ers in Cayman would say, is very real. Unlike the UK, courts in the Cayman Islands do not have to justify decisions on Human Rights grounds but they must be conscious that any decisions they make can, and increasingly will, be subject to appeal (and that rights to access to justice applies to anyone regardless of their citizenship – the very fact of being within the jurisdiction gives you that right).

    I still maintain that someone in the RCIPS decided this was a good idea and there is now a realisation that it is fraught with legal obstacles and they will be hoping that by remaining quiet it will simply go away. Perhaps if those in the RCIPS and the wider Governance group would concentrate on the immediate concerns of residents and visitors and leave the racist point scoring behind, Cayman would be a better place.

    The Beachbum

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  6. Beachbum

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    My last post was edited by Caycompass, in their infinite wisdom.

    As the human rights issue in Cayman has been a sensitive and sometimes volatile and controversial one, I won’t judge Caycompass too harshly; after all, they have to live in Cayman, I don’t.

    You have said everything that is essentially true but what is written on paper and happening in actuality in Cayman are two totally different things and I completely agree with you…

    It won’t go away by itself and will only compound itself the more its being hidden or denied.

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