HRC assumes police service polygraphs were voluntary

The Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission said last month that it has received no formal complaints from local police officers regarding polygraph tests they were administered in 2010.

Questions regarding the basis for such tests, therefore, could not be answered, according to commission chairman Richard Coles.

“In the absence of any such complaints, we must assume that the polygraphs are being undertaken voluntarily,” Mr. Coles said in a brief written reply to Caymanian Compass questions on the matter. “Any officer is free to make an official complaint to HRC which we will then deal with.

“In the present circumstances the HRC can see no basis for making enquiries of the RCIPS.”

According to several current and former Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officers, more than 40 officers were given the tests, often called lie detectors. Some civilian RCIPS employees were given the tests as well, according to Police Association Chairman Rudolph Gordon.

The police service has only ever issued a one-line statement regarding the polygraph testing.

“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.

Mr. Gordon said earlier this year that there was “no closure” for police officers who had taken the tests.

“It is still hanging over our heads,” Mr. Gordon, a police inspector, said during a lengthy interview with the Compass last month. “A lot of officers feel that there is this thing overshadowing them: uncertainty.”

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 and she confirmed that some officers had brought their complaints about the tests to the association.

“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.”

Repeated requests seeking comment about the polygraph tests have not been granted.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. All of which speaks volumes for the state of human rights in the Cayman Islands and the conditions under which members of the RCIPS are employed.

    The HRC has no right to assume anything, it should be a proactive organisation actively questioning any reports of potential human rights abuses. As they must be aware, people who are being subjected to acts that potentially violate their human rights are frequently in no position to make formal complaints about it.

    Bearing in mind the extensive negative media coverage of the polygraph tests don’t the HRC think that the lack of any formal complaints from those involved is just a little bit worrying?

    And before people wade in defending polygraphs we have to remember that this testing is not recognised under UK law. The issue here is whether the police force in an Overseas Territory, under the control of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office through the Governor, have the right to subject public employees to testing that could not be conducted in the UK. If Commissioner Baines had tried to do this to his former colleagues in Cheshire the public outcry, particularly from the Police Federation, would have forced his resignation.

    If 40 officers, rather more than one in ten of the current strength, were tested the knock on effects (as described above) represent a significant impact to the effectiveness of the RCIPS and the matter needs to settled ASAP before it ends up doing the same long-term harm damage to police morale as Operations Tempura and Cealt.

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  2. I really must agree with John Evans. What was the management of RCIPS thinking of by using, voluntary or otherwise, a technique that is so discredited it cannot be used in the UK.

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  3. Some people cannot understand why I hold the view that Commissioner Baines should be fired. Well, the difference between me and those officers who were polygraph tested under what amounts to duress is, that I would not allow him to manipulate me like they have. Those officers should report their true feelings to the HRC. Do you not agree?

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  4. John

    You’re making total sense here but this situation cannot be isolated from the bigger picture re human rights in the Cayman Islands.

    The fact is that those laws are still left to fully implemented, including local legislation that will bring the constituional Bill of Rights into effect.

    Time is ticking away and this McKeeeva Bush-led CI Government has made absolutely no indication or statement on the issue.

    Without an effective local charter in place, the HRC is basically powerless to do anything of note because they would have to by-pass local authorities and bring any complaints or investigation directly to the ECHR themselves and the ECHR only deals with cases that have gone through the courts of the local jurisdiction.

    Yourself, being a resident UK citizen should have more joy in getting your FOI request reviewed by the Human Rights and Equality Commission through your Member of Parliament in regards to the reports of Operation Tempura and Cealt, as I’ve read elsewhere, that you intend to do.

    I, for one, wish you all success in this endeavour as I believe that the public has a right to this information that they are being denied but the UK is an entirely different country from the Cayman Islands in this regard.

    There is also the Standing Order policies for civil servants across the board that will have to be reviewed once these human rights laws take full effect in Cayman.

    Don’t hold your breath on waiting to see whether the current Caymanian Government meets this November 2012 deadline for full implementation.

    This new 2009 Constitution doesn’t seem to be worth the paper its written on if current indications are anything to go by.

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  5. Guys do you have a short memory or is your memory blurry?
    I remember clearly when the RCIP offers were taking the polygraph tests. they were SUBJECTED TO DO THE POLYGRAPH TEST.

    Not voluntary at all. How soon do you people forget important facts.

    At least forty serving RCIPS officers have been forced to take a polygraph test, sources have revealed to CNS. The reason for the testing is unclear but it is said to be causing real concern among serving officers, who believe those who fail will be discriminated against. The police management has neither confirmed nor denied that the testing is taking place and a police spokesperson stated that it is not RCIPS policy to comment on vetting procedures. However, it is understood that the testing is ongoing and more officers are expected to be subjected to the lie detector test.

    This can be verified. HRC you have got to be sharper than a tack if you are going to sit in that seat how could you think this was a voluntary exercise by the RCIP when it was clearly a forced requirement?

    Editor’s note:

    Hello Tiger. Our memory works just fine, enough to remember that caycompass.com broke this story, not CNS. (see below)

    http://www.compasscayman.com/caycompass/2010/09/07/Polygraph-tests-for-RCIPS-officers/

    If the HRC has a different view of what occurred, then that is its view, not ours.

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  6. For the cynical observers amongst us, there is another recent development to consider.

    The chairman of the Human Rights Commission, Richard Coles, has just been appointed the head of Cayman Finance, a serious and time-consuming job and responsibility.

    Where will Mr. Coles now find time to head a fully functional HRC while overseeing this extremely important financial organization ?

    As a confirmed sceptic as to the Cayman authorities intention to implement a fully working and functional human rights regime, when taken all the facts into account, the picture does not look promising.

    British citizens who hold British passports, residing in Cayman and Caymanians who hold British passports might stand a better chance by appealing their cases to the office of the Governor, should they feel their rights have been denied or violated.

    The FCO has an obligation to investigate human rights violations for ALL British-passports holders, in ALL the British Overseas Territories, regardless of what the local situation might be.

    The way I see it, the current Human Rights Commission is nothing more than a rubber-stamping body for the Caymanian authorities to fulfill the letter of the law, rather than its spirit.

    What the public needs to inquire, possibly through an FOI request, is how many complaints this HRC has received and of what nature and the results of those complaints.

    I can almost guarantee that the results will be very disappointing, if the information is released any at all.

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  7. It was a bit troubling to hear the HRC report they thought the polygraph test exercise was voluntary. In my humble opinion at least one member of the HRC should be awake, and alert to report and refer to previous articles and reports listing dates and times that attest even to the first press release of this RCIP exercise being forced upon these officers concerned.

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  8. Tiger

    In what is the only really functional model for the Human Rights Commission, I can tell you how the Human Rights and Equality Commission works in the UK.

    The overiding legislation has been in place since 1998 in the form of the Human Rights Act 1998, a very thorough and powerful piece of legislation here in Britain.

    The HREC does not go looking for cases to investigate, there has to be a formal complaint made in writing, with back-up evidence.

    An audit trail is necessary for when the HREC begins their investigative process because this process is fully binding in the laws and courts of Great Britain.

    If a complaint is found to have a credible cause, prosecution processes are immediately started against the offending party, be it a government or private entity.

    The HREC here in Britain has a very good record of successful prosecutions, although many do not necessarily agree with some of the courts decisions; the point is that the process itself works very well.

    It remains to be seen exactly how or even if any process is actually now at work in the Cayman Islands.

    Your guess is as good as mine; I hope this information proves helpful, as is intended.

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