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.