Commissioner takes issue

Unfortunately I find myself once again in a position where I have to write to you in response to what is a misguided, misleading and quite frankly mischievous editorial. 

Today’s (Wednesday, 14 December) swipe at the RCIPS – titled ‘It’s time for some answers’ – clearly has been printed as a direct result of our conversations with a reporter in relation to the story which first appeared on Monday, 12 December. 

You will recall that we agreed to meet with your reporter last Friday to discuss what he planned to print. We advised them that when we were aware of the detail we would consider what, if any comment, we would make in response. The fact is that your editorial team refused to agree to a meeting on those terms. You believed that we should agree to make comment without first being made aware of the detail – a position which we believe is unrealistic. We will not be held to ransom by the Compass, or any of its staff. 

In relation to the articles themselves, which appear to be direct cuts and pastes from court records, anyone reading those articles can clearly see that there has been collaboration between the RCIPS and US law enforcement for some considerable time. It is not a case of the “Big Boys” coming in to sort this out. The editorial suggests that the RCIPS has had no involvement in any of the investigations. Nothing could be further from the truth! Think about it for a moment – how did the US marshals know to board that particular plane, at that particular time before the individual concerned had an opportunity to approach immigration? 

There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding within the Compass of how law enforcement operates. We do not investigate crime through the media; we work in 
partnership with other law enforcement organisations to do so. The reasons for this must be clear even to the ‘investigative reporters’ employed by the Compass; to preserve evidence, protect witnesses and ensure that any media reporting does not prejudice future legal proceedings.  

The continuing biased and ill-informed reporting by the Compass, as well as the mischievous attempts to draw comment, will not change the way we operate. 

We are, after all, in the business of detecting crime not selling newspapers. 

 

David Baines 

 

 

Editor’s note: It is with some regret that the Caymanian Compass must respond to the above writings of the police commissioner.  

First, our reporting was not ill-informed, as the Commissioner falsely claims. We have obtained full copies of the federal criminal complaint against Brandon Leslie Ebanks, the probable cause affidavit attached to it and the court order detaining Mr. Leslie. The commissioner has raised no issue regarding the accuracies of either news story, only the editorial that was written.  

Second, the commissioner makes the following comment: “The editorial suggests that the RCIPS has had no involvement in any of the investigations.” The editorial, published in Wednesday’s editions, “suggests” no such thing; quite the opposite. Here’s what the editorial says: “Surely, the local police must have these same reports.” We are well aware the police must have had some knowledge of these investigations. What the editorial questioned – at which Mr. Baines seemed to take offence – is what has been done locally regarding the additional cases of firearms smuggling that were identified? We’ve heard nothing regarding these matters, and Mr. Baines, all the while heaping nonsensical abuse upon this publication, gives no further details that would actually provide any clarity to the questions we’ve asked.  

Third, Mr. Baines’ description of our request for a meeting with police officials last week about this story is grossly misleading. We asked to speak with RCIPS representatives about the story on Thursday evening and they offered to meet with us at 11.30am Friday. Police asked that we reveal all of our information to them after which they ‘might’ consider speaking on the record with the Compass. This is not ideal for journalistic purposes; in fact it is a bit too similar to what typically occurs with authoritarian governments the world over. However, even if we were inclined to accept the commissioner’s request, a previous meeting in similar circumstances held with police service representatives has warned us off future attempts to participate in such meetings and, frankly, caused us no small alarm.  

To explain that last comment further, we have today published a letter the Caymanian Compass hand-delivered to Commissioner Baines in July. We have received no response from the Commissioner to date. We believe readers will see quite clearly, after reviewing the letter below, why our representatives are now reluctant to participate in such ‘off-the-record’ meetings, as suggested by police officials prior to the publication of the Florida-Cayman firearms smuggling story.  

As we said above, it is with some regret that we now take this step. However, we at the Compass refuse – at all times – to simply accept the false statements of those who seek to mislead the public or to submit to those who would seek to bully the free press; even if those bullies are wearing uniforms.  

 

Dear Sirs,  

We write formally to record the greatest concern with regard to the events set out below. An employee of the Caymanian Compass met with a representative of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service on 6 June, 2011. Both our employee’s and the RCIP representative’s identities will be withheld from this letter, for reasons which will be apparent from what follows. Our employee had previously contacted the RCIP representative to ask to speak with  

[an RCIPS officer] regarding an investigation being conducted by the Financial Crime Unit. Our employee was seeking information regarding the case, which (as he told the RCIPS representative) was of an extremely sensitive nature, owing to the position held by the subject of the FCU investigation. Accordingly our employee asked that any discussions be treated by the RCIPS representative as strictly confidential.  

The RCIPS representative met with our employee personally in the afternoon on 6 June, 2011, at the RCIPS headquarters at Elizabethan Square. Our employee was informed that [the RCIPS officer] could not meet with him personally, but had asked that the RCIPS representative act as a “go between” to take our employee’s information and any questions that our employee might have. It was agreed between the two participants in the meeting that everything said by the RCIPS representative was to be regarded as “off the record” and accordingly was not to be reported in the newspaper.  

It was also agreed that the subject matter was very sensitive and that what was told to the RCIP representative was being stated in confidence, solely to enable them to put our employee’s questions to the appropriate individuals at RCIPS, and particularly [the RCIPS officer]. The RCIPS representative confirmed that what was said would be held in strict confidence. The person added that they would put the questions to [the RCIPS officer]; but that in view of the subject of the enquiries they would also have to notify the Police Commissioner, Mr. David Baines – but no one else. On the same date of the 6 June, 2011, another Compass reporter contacted the subject of the FCU investigation. This reporter did not go into specific allegations, but broached the issue that he was being investigated by the police. The subject and the reporter briefly discussed the matter. At no time was any indication given that another Compass employee had been in touch with the RCIPS. Indeed, the subject was not made aware that any other specific Compass employee knew of the FCU investigation, only that the newspaper had been made aware of it. 

The next morning, 7 June, 2011, the reporter who had contacted the subject of the FCU investigation received a phone call from him. The subject said that he understood that another reporter at the newspaper – naming the other employee – was making enquiries about the FCU’s investigation. The Compass reporter confirmed this and the phone call ended shortly thereafter.  

During that phone call, the subject of the investigation did not indicate who had given him the name of the Compass employee who had contacted the RCIPS. Our employee who met with the RCIPS representative had only spoken with one individual from the RCIPS. No other person, other than the Compass reporter who had contacted the subject of the investigation and the editor of the Compass, knew that the newspaper was looking into this matter; and neither of them had contacted the RCIPS about the matter.  

Only three people at the RCIPS and three people at the Caymanian Compass were aware that our employee had asked questions of the RCIP representative regarding the FCU investigation. It appears that, notwithstanding the undertaking given to our employee, one of them informed the subject of the investigation that enquiries had been made of the RCIPS and the name of our employee who had made them. We write to express our grave concern at this apparent breach of confidence by RCIPS, and also that RCIPS should have informed the subject of a criminal investigation of our reporter’s enquiries of RCIPS.  

Cayman Free Press seeks to maintain the highest journalistic standards in pursuit of its mission of keeping the residents of Cayman informed. It is routine for journalists who obtain information regarding criminal cases to approach the police for any response they might choose to give. The freedom of the press to make legitimate enquiries and to report fairly and impartially on such matters will be endangered if our reporters and editors have reason to fear that reprisals by subjects of criminal investigations. We would be happy to meet with representatives of RCIP and /or the Governor’s Office to discuss these matters.  

 

Yours faithfully,  

Tammie C. Chisholm 

Editor 

Cayman Free Press 

1 COMMENT

  1. I would have thought that someone with the Commissioner’s experience would know by now that the problem with letters like this is that they always raise even more questions about what is going on in the RCIPS than they answer.

    It’s the old – open mouth, insert foot – syndrome.

    In this case I notice that he suggests RCIPS involvement in the arrest, asking how the US marshals nabbed the suspect before he reached immigration. Well, there’s a little thing that’s been around for a while called API (Advance Passenger Information), which allows the authorities in the USA to vet all incoming passengers against their wanted and undesirable lists. I understand it’s also SOP in the USA to grab people tagged by API on the plane where the arrest can be made in a controlled environment rather than let them get into the terminal area.

    But the question his comments raise is, if RCIPS were in the loop on all this, why was a man, wanted on serious firearms charges, allowed to board a commercial passenger flight in the first place? Would it not have been much safer to detain him on Grand Cayman for extradition to the USA?

  2. John

    That is only one relevant question to be answered…there are quite a few others.

    Granted, we agree that police work, by its very nature, must retain a high level of confidentiality;it is unrealistic to expect the police to publicise their every move and action to the public but…

    The unanswered questions here are too glaring and obvious; Mr. Baines obviously takes Cayman’s public for a bunch of fools.

    I will only state the most disturbing of outstnading questions and this is the main question that Caycompass has aksed as well.

    How can the USA have a (criminal complaint) before the US Courts naming 12 people involved in a gun-running operation in which guns were shipped to Cayman, attempts were made by some of these same people to collect these hidden weapons and only one person was charged and convicted in this case, while 11 others are named?

    What actions will the RCIPS now take in the impending event that this indictment will now go before a US judge and be made public and these people named ?

    Is the position of Mr. Baines one that indicates that conspiracy to committ a crime as serious as gun smuggling not considered a crime in the Cayman Islands and thus no offence was commmitted by these other Caymanians named in this indictment ?

    I will leave these questions for readers of this forum to ponder over.

  3. Sorry, firery, we couldn’t resist expanding upon your comment.

    ‘We agree that police work, by its very nature, must retain a high level of confidentiality…’

    You forgot to add: ‘…except apparently when dealing with members of the media and their requests for confidentiality.’

  4. Caycompass

    I sympathise with your dilemma; as the main media source in Cayman now, its obvious that your organization is now feeling the wrath of officialdom in Cayman for not toeing the line in their time-honoured policies of providing as least information to the public as possible, on any matter in which they are not presented in the best light.

    One would think that in the 21st century, these archaic idealogies would have been consigned the the pages of history by now but obviously not so in Cayman.

    As I’ve said before, Mr. Baines obviously considers us all stupid.

    If your good selves had not done this brilliant piece of investigative journalism, no one would have heard of this impending indictment before the US courts until it hit the international news; we would have heard it when the rest of the world did.

    This ‘guns-in-fridge’ case happened almost two years ago; the shooting up of the magistrates house with a smuggled gun, almost the same time as well.

    I’m sure now Mr. Baines will be trying to convince Cayman’s public that he and the RCIPS has been working behind the scenes with the US authorities all along…while no charges have ever been laid, either against Brandon Leslie or Robert Terry in connection with this conspiracy of gun smuggling.

    Mr. Baines would have us all believe that it was the RCIPS that ‘tipped-off’ the US authorities that Leslie was on a flight out of Cayman, which might or might not be so but only leaves the RCIPS wide open to question for not having arrested him for the crimes of which he is being accused in the USA, which are most certainly crimes in the Cayman Islands as well.

    To be truthful, Mr. Baines letter to yourselves has only opened pandoras box.

    This entire situation could have grave consequences up to the diplomatic level, when all the evidence comes to light, as it most certainly will.

  5. This sounds like more than a Breach of confidentiality to me on the part of the police officer. It appears to be a straight forward offence of Tipping Off. But who would investigate that I wonder?

  6. When you summarise what CoP Baines issue with Caycompass is in this letter, it appears more trifling and petty the more you read it, when weighed up against the more serious issues at hand here.

    He really only seems to be griping about the fact that the newspaper did not allow him to ‘edit’ or ‘censure’ the report before it was published…and that the editorial to which he is responding ‘inferred’ that the RCIPS had been kept in the dark by the US authorities regarding the ongoing investigation and that Caycompass is accusing the RCIPS of at least incompetence.

    He himself has stated that the original report was a ‘copy and paste’ of the US Court records…

    All the better because he cannot argue the accuracy of the report or any tampering or altering of the information by Caycompass…they have passed on tho the world’s reading public, not just Cayman’s, what is public records in the United States.

    In my opinion, Mr. Baines is fortunate that he is not dealing with the British press, rather than Caycompass, who have been rather gentle with the really hard questions that should being asked by an independent press.

    If this situation develops into a major international scandal, which it has every potential to and the Britsh press gets a hold of this story…

    Mr. Baines and the RCIPS will wish that they had the more benign Caycompass dealing with.

    Whar Mr. Baines should be worried about is when those co-conspirators names who live in Cayman and were involved in the major cache of arms that were intercepted in Cayman are made public at Brandon Leslie’s indictment…

    No one in Cayman is any fool, despite Mr. Baines seeming to think so and he will not be able to write letters criticising the US court that will release those names when this indictment is handed down.

  7. What really makes this entire episode look really disgraceful to us Caymanians living in Britain is that, as a British police officer, we can and have every right ot expect better from any police commander here in Britain in any similar position to Mr. Baines.

    There is a system of checks and balances on which we can reasonably rely, which is not to say that ontoward things do not happen here as well but…

    Gun smuggling ranks even above drug smuggling as a MAJOR international crime…and particularly for Britain or a British Territory where guns are anti-thetical to society’s modes and…

    Considering the major gun-related crime wave that has washed over Grand Cayman within the last 2 years, coinciding with Mr. Baines taking leadership of Cayman’s police force and…

    With this same CoP, Mr. Baines pointing fingers at all and sundry for the guns that are now threatening the very Caymanian way of life.

    The poor Jamaicans get blamed for everything…the guns were supposed to be coming in by boat from Jamaica, Honduras,…wherever but the evidence now shows that…

    many of the guns being used in armed robberies and gang shootings have been supplied through the conventional shipping systems by Caymaninas to their very own Caymanians.

    Mr. Baines next letter or speech expalaining this one away will make very interesting reading.

  8. In response to Mr Evans and Would it not have been much safer to detain him on Grand Cayman for extradition to the USA?
    He knows as well as anyone that the courts system in Cayman is so imperfect that there was no guarantee that this man would be out on the streets within days if not hours.
    Of course, this situation is made worse by an arrogant media who clearly feel they are somehow exempt from a formal relationship with official bodies.

  9. Why this continual attack on our Commissioner.. His team has been sending these lowlife to the courts every day..

    To say that we also blame everything on the Poor Jamaicans is full of it..

    Criminals do not depend on one source for their supply, be it drugs or guns..

    I am a Caymanian living in Cayman, walking the Cayman marl road, not the pages of the compass and unclassified police releases.. The police search the streets for evidence not the Compass..

    Whatever was/is being coordinated between the Cayman Police and the US authorities must be classified..

    The commissioner said more than he should have said in his reply; no comment should be his position.. We want him to catch and prosecute criminals not tell us a sensational story, that is the Compass Job and so some
    inspiring journalist.

  10. In reponse to The Press, I find this all completely beyond comprehension.

    Back when I worked for Net News we had a good working relationship with the Commissioner, Stuart Kernohan, and his press officer who both understood the needs of the press. We also enjoyed mutual respect on the concepts of off the record and confidentiality. We didn’t always agree on things but it never ended up like this. The only thing that’s changed since those days is the leadership at RCIPS and right now that is the thing that concerns me most. Mr Baines’ letter demonstrates a bunker mentality and that is extremely unhealthy.

    My experience has always been, despite all the dirt being dug up in the UK right now, that at the kind of local level you have in the Cayman Islands the media and law enforcement can and should be mutually supportive. Right now, particularly with RCIPS documented abuse of FOI, it is quite clear that one side has a problem accepting this and it’s not the Compass.

  11. Well, well, well…

    The cat has truly been let out of the bag now.

    A copy of the Criminal Complaint before the US Court is now in the public realm on another online news source in the Cayman Islands.

    Just as I suspected and inferred…

    The names of the individuals named in this conspiracy to smuggle firearms who have not been charged or arrested makes some very interesting reading for those of us who are well acquainted with Cayman’s social scene.

    Its over to our good Commish now, sir…

    The ball’s in your court.

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