The armed branch of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service had one of its officers suspended last year, according to information obtained by the Caymanian Compass through open records requests and other sources.
The armed unit, called the Uniform Support Group or USG, is responsible for conducting all armed police operations within the Cayman Islands. USG officers are the only police employees trained to carry firearms in the course of their regular duties; line patrol officers in the Cayman Islands are typically not armed.
A response received from the service following a Freedom of Information request indicated the officer is on paid suspension “in relation to a matter outside our jurisdiction”.
The Caymanian Compass has learned the matter involves a serious criminal allegation being investigated in Jamaica. The newspaper is not naming the officer involved because he has not been charged with a crime, as far as it is aware.
No other Uniform Support Group officers have been fired, suspended or placed on required leave from their jobs within the past five years, according to the RCIPS response to the newspaper’s open records request.
Repeated follow-up questions sent to Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines, the government Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, and Governor Duncan Taylor’s office over the last few months about the suspended USG officer’s case have been met with a wall of silence. No response to any questions the newspaper has sent, other than two contained in the Freedom of Information request, have been answered.
The Compass spoke to representatives of the RCIPS officers’ association about the case Monday. They indicated that there was nothing the department could have done to prevent the situation with the suspended USG officer.
“He was highly recommended by the Jamaican authorities,” said Sergeant Winsome Prendergast, the association’s chairperson for legal affairs.
According to another recent open records request, eight members of the RCIPS were subjected to disciplinary action earlier as the result of findings in the Operation Tempura and Operation Cealt misconduct investigations.
The police service has now confirmed eight officers were disciplined, six of whom were dismissed or forced to retire, as a result of the investigations being conducted against them. The two others faced unspecified disciplinary action. The RCIPS also did not specify what allegations against staff members led to their discipline or dismissal.
It was not certain whether the USG officer’s suspension came as a result of the previous anti-corruption probes or was unrelated to Operations Tempura and Cealt.
Although it indicated that Operations Tempura and Cealt had both officially ended, the RCIPS response to the previous FOI request also indicated there was at least one allegation that “remains the subject of active investigation”. The nature of that probe was also not stated.
Operation Cealt began in 2008 as a spin off from the initial Operation Tempura misconduct investigation and at one point involved 161 separate allegations.
“All allegations were fully recorded and investigated,” the RCIPS responses indicated. “In a number of cases, the allegations were evaluated and found to be of a ‘single strand’ or historic nature … making it difficult to find corroboration to support them.
“A significant number of the allegations have been ‘pended’ awaiting further intelligence/evidence becoming available in order to reopen them as appropriate. At the conclusion of operation Cealt a number of these ‘pended’ allegations were passed to the newly formed RCIPS Anti-Corruption Unit for further action, if and when deemed to be appropriate.”
The earlier probe, Operation Tempura, began in September 2007 following claims that a former local newspaper publisher, Desmond Seales of Cayman Net News, and Deputy Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis had improperly shared information that could have placed police operations in jeopardy and officers’ lives in danger. Investigators at the time said those claims were quickly disproved and began investigating an alleged ‘break-in’ at the newspaper’s offices in George Town.
The investigation eventually ended in criminal charges against a former deputy police commissioner and a former Cayman Islands lawmaker, both of whom were cleared following criminal trials.
According to the RCIPS response to the private individual’s FOI request, no other criminal charges were filed related to either the Tempura or Cealt investigations.