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.
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.
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.
Tammie C. Chisholm
Cayman Free Press