Police challenge promotions test

Officers claim test unfair

An open records request made to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service seeking copies of the most recent police promotions exam has revealed that some officers complained about the appropriateness and fairness of the version of the test that was administered 
last year.

All officers seeking promotion from the police constable rank to sergeant rank and promotion from sergeant to inspector must sit an exam and obtain a passing score of at least 60 out of 100 points, according to police 
operating guidelines.

As part of their efforts to suss out whether the test was administered fairly and correctly, some local officers filed a Freedom of Information request for a copy of the 
2010 exam.

However, Information Commissioner Jennifer Dilbert ruled Monday that releasing the copies of the test to the public would be likely to prejudice the conduct of public affairs. For example, if someone knew what questions were going to be asked on the test prior to taking it, that person would have a distinct advantage, the information commissioner noted.

“Disclosure [of the test] would be likely to undermine the credibility of the examination and promotion processes, and might discredit the entire police force,” Mrs. Dilbert wrote in her decision on the case. Indeed, the 
information commissioner found that the police service initially agreed to allow some officers to come in 
privately and review the exam at RCIPS training headquarters – but few did so.

Officers making the request for information argued that anyone sitting the exam who failed it and then re-took it the next year would have an inherent advantage in any case.

The information commissioner’s report revealed that a number of complaints were made about the police promotions test by candidates that took the 2010 exam.

Those included concerns about the fairness of the exam process related to the newly introduced practice of applicants having to write their names on answer sheets [previously the tests were scored anonymously], the composition and content of some of the questions, the time allotted for the exam, and the alleged “inappropriateness” of the room where the exam was given.

Officers also noted that there was a “high rate of failure” among the candidates that took the 2010 test, the information commissioner’s office said.

While agreeing with the police service on its reasons for keeping the test contents under wraps, Mrs. Dilbert made no conclusion as to whether the exam itself was fair or appropriate.

“The questions relating to the allegations of unfair practices and maladministration might be appropriate for the complaints commissioner to address,” Mrs. Dilbert wrote. “It appears that even without sight of the [2010 police promotions exam], the applicant [referring to the officers] would have sufficient documentation to proceed in this manner.”

Certain matters are not subject to complaints commissioner review under the law. Those include: “Action taken by or with the authority of the attorney general, the commissioner of police, the chief immigration officer, or the collector of customs for the purposes of investigating crime or of protecting the security of the Islands… .”

It is not clear whether the issue of police promotional exams would fall under that exemption from investigation in the Complaints Commissioner Law (2006 Revision.)

In any case, the information commissioner noted that the RCIPS had made sufficient provision for failed promotions candidates to review their own papers.

“[This would] clearly indicate a willingness on the part of the RCIPS to find a positive solution, short of granting full access to the responsive record,” Mrs. Dilbert wrote.


  1. There are clearly some issues to be dealt with but releasing the exam paper is not one of them unless there is any suggestion that the questions did not fall within the published curriculum.
    The main issue is that the examinations must be marked anonymously. It is quite unfair, in a small organisation like RCIPS, to expect someone to mark a paper written by someone they know which, inevitably, will be the case.
    The other issues – time for the exam and the appropriateness of the examination room – can’t be commend on because we do now know the details.
    In the past, examinations have been written and then checked by a senior officer for appropriateness. The exam writer would also prepare a marking guide to show the main points the question was designed to cover and the suggested point value.
    Each candidate would be given a candidate number with only one person in the organisation knowing which candidate related to which candidate number. This information would remain under lock and key until the scripts were marked.
    The marking would then be carried out by a cohort of senior officers. Once the marking was complete, the markers and the examination manager would come together, openly, to marry up the scores with the candidates. The results would then be published.
    For each year a different examination must be used. Of course, there will be certain key areas of the curriculum that will be covered but one would hope that the format of the question on these would differ from year to year.
    One area that has been considered in the past was the ‘moving pass mark’. In this, the RCIPS predicts how many people they expect to promote in each year. When the examination marks are published, there is no ‘pass’ mark but the top candidate goes to the top of the promotion list and so on until all the places are filled. The downside for this is that in years where there is limited scope for promotion then the pass mark, if you called it that, would be very high whereas, in other years, the pass mark could be quite low. The upside of this is that it meets the needs of the organisation as long as the expected numbers for promotion are published in any corporate plan.
    Organising examinations is an onerous task. The examinations have to be fair, in terms of the expectation of candidates and how they exam is written and marked. The bottom line is that the RCIPS and, ultimately, the public, need to be assured that the examination is a rigorous test of knowledge so that only those who have the required knowledge are put forward for higher office. The examination should never be ‘easy’. To pass should require that the candidate prepares adequately and the time they spend doing this will be testament to their desire to progress.
    What is vital is that the expectations of the organisation and the candidates is met as far as is possible. Everyone has to be comfortable in how the system will work and that it is fair and transparent. In the past the RCIPS has also organised voluntary revision classes for candidates to prepare them. In addition to helping the candidate, these sessions also helped to manage expectations.

  2. It would be interesting to see if the UK officers took the test – how they would pass with flying colors. I serious believe they change the exam to keep down the local officers.

  3. Q.1 You see someone in the act of committing a crime. Do you:
    (a) arrest them
    (b) go somewhere else
    (c) say hi, ask them how they and the family are doing, and if you’ll see them at Auntie Jo’s BBQ next weekend?

    (Answers: A -10 points, B 5 points, C 10 points)

  4. Carib58: Yes, that’s 10% more than the doctor needs to pass their medical examinations!
    BT: The provisions for promotion in the UK are far more rigorous. In addition to an exam (with a 60% pas mark) candidates have to attend an assessment day where they are assessed against nationally mandated criteria on a range of practical issues and then they have to pass a searching interview panel.
    Any ex pat officers who wish to apply for promotion within the RCIPS must undergo the same examination as local officers which is yet another reason why anonymous marking is so important. Fortunately, the basics of law in the UK and Cayman are very similar.

  5. I disagree with the reply of the official. Most tertiary institution of learning and high scgools and examining bodies such as Cambridgeand London, GCE give out past papers for revision purposes. Business Schools , Law Schools, Trade Training centrs and others do give out past papers to help with revision before exams. Mrs. Dilbert herself must have had some experiece with this when she was a student in university and at Cayman Islands High School. The idea is not the paper itself. It is the format on how the exam will be set. I see nothing wrong with this because you don’t expect to set the identical paper. It should not be the purpose of the examiner to see that the students fail the exam.He should not set out to deliberately make the paper too easie either. People must know what they are preparing for. If the officers believe that you set out to fail them and give no explanation how to proceed(not telling the answers)then they have a right to question it and should be able to take it up to the highest Judicial authority in the land. This is especially so if there are other officers in the Service from other jurisdiction who are familar with the particular format in question.They would have an unfair advantage over the local officers.It seems that everywhere in in RCIP now-a-days there is unravelling but one would hope this is for the good of the members of the organization, the officers and the country at large.
    Also that equality prevail because this has been taking a beating in recent times.

  6. Mr Islander: I don’t, for one moment, think the examinations are set with failure in mind but that they are seen as a true test of the knowledge of the candidate. However, I do not have a problem with releasing past papers.
    The one serious issue I have with your post is the allegation that the system favours the ex pat officer. This is not the case. The examination system for the RCIPS follows the same format as it has for many years. Traditionally, ex pat officers only come for 2-3 years and are employed on an ‘overseas contract’ – many having taken a sabbatical from their parent police service in the UK (This is no longer the case as UK police services are now very unlikely to permit this). While they are permitted to take the exam they cannot be promoted, I believe, unless they transfer onto a ‘local contract’ which, for the ex pat has less benefits. Therefore, the number of ex pat officers coming forward from the examination has been quite low.
    I am sure it would not be an unreasonable FoI request if you were to ask how many Caymanians were promoted in each of the last 4 years (since the reintroduction of the promotion exams in 2006 after Ivan) compared to how many who were originally employed on ‘overseas contracts’.

  7. @ Beachbum – It is not ex-pat officers that the British system is favoring, but British officers! Cayman is still under the British colonial system. If you think I lie, read our Constitution again carefully and notice the Commissioner of Police policies on civilians owning guns. Look at the 300 cctv camaras that are going to be installed everywhere now to watch our every moved – not just installed for criminals! Beachbum, wake up! We live in a world where UK politicians have their own self-interest over the peoples interest! We are not equally considered on the same plain with a British citizen. Do you see us having the same priveleges like them? Do you see us having the right to vote for the Prime Minister like them? Of course not! We are considered as second-class citizens, natives. That is no doubt what colonialism is all about! It is about inequality, treating the subjects of the Overseas Territories below them. And look at the Poligraph testing to intimidate the local officers. To bombared them with interrogation techniques. Coincidence? I think not!

  8. Oh dear BT, what a strange view of the world you have…
    Do you think for one moment, UK politicians give one second’s thoughts to the Islands?
    There are two reasons why the Cayman Islands and others remain as they are: 1) it suits the needs of the rich and powerful to have some hick backwater where they can hide their stash and avoid paying taxes like ordinary working people.
    2) Because your leaders and the majority of the Caymanian people want to remain that way. Without that little corner of your flag that is the Union Flag you are virtually nothing but a speck of dust in a large ocean.
    I would point out several other inaccuracies in your post: For example, the British people do NOT get to vote for their prime minister – we get whoever has kissed the proverbial backsides of their political party faithful. As for lie detector tests, you will see from my previous posts I have been very vocal in my opposition to them.
    I would get rid of that chip on your shoulder and start working for your people. Get them to want independence and then you can go and get the society you want and, more importantly, deserve. Unfortunately, I don’t think you will like what you end up with but at least it will be of your own making.

  9. So, the RCIPS changes it’s testing format from essay type questions to 100 Multiple Choice type questions and you only need to get 60 right and officers STILL CAN’T PASS??? Seems to me the CoP was correct for once when he stated that there is a severe illiteracy problem in the Service….

  10. Multiple choice questions can only test knowledge if a lot of time and effort is taken in preparing them. They are, singularly, the most difficult questions to write. Unfortunately most organisations use them because they think they are easy to write and even easier to mark. This is simply NOT true and is a false economy. If The Commissioner has agreed to them then he has been badly advised and mislead.
    The RCIPS exams up until 2006 at least, were essay format with three papers – Traffic, Crime and General Police Duties and, I believe, offered a through test of knowledge and understanding.

  11. @ Beachbum – In response to your comment below where you stated that UK politicians does not give one second’s thoughts to the Islands. You are absolutely correct. However, there is a certain few powerheads amongst the lot that has interest in the WEALTH they can attain from these islands. I call them UK special interest groups. To deny that they exist, is to be narrow in your thinking. These are the same ones that will say to Cayman when all is said and done – DO YOU THINK FOR ONE MOMENT, WE GAVE ONE SECOND’S THOUGHT ABOUT YOU? YOU CAN GO INDEPENDENT NOW! I personally dont wish for Independence, but those powerful few in the UK, should change the way they treat the Overseas Territories for their own interest – Don’t you think?

  12. I have meet policemen who can hardly write. And i mean not able to write at all, or with extreme difficulties. Haven’t you? And when i see that some people are begging to let them use guns and follow their own judgement i am not sure about the result. I am not saying that writing properly should be a criteria to judge the valor of a person but it should be a minimum for any representatives of the Crown. Especially carrying this type of responsibilties. Don’t you think?

  13. Dear Editor
    Could you please confirm the pass percentage for the police promotional testing.
    What is the pass percentage for a drivers licence?
    If drivers is higher than police then we have a problem.

  14. BT: I think we broadly agree. I did say that Cayman was of interest to the rich and powerful but I don’t think these are politicians. The rich and powerful are big business protected by Caymanian based banks and legal services.
    You have to look inwards for the possibility of change but then ask yourself, can I see our turkey politicians voting for an early Christmas!
    carib58.. I know of local officers who failed to complete the initial training but are still in the police service……..

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