Association: Officers can’t get ‘fair trial’

Internal disciplinary action cases against Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officers that involve serious allegations should be handled by an individual or body outside of the police administration, members of the RCIPS Police Association 
said last week.  

The association’s statements were made in response to an earlier article in the Caymanian Compass that reviewed the government’s latest plan for handling police complaints. According to the Police Law, 2010, Cayman was supposed to have an independent body set up to hear citizen complaints against the police. That has never been accomplished and now the government is seeking to form an alternate body and change certain 
requirements within the law.  

However, neither the old plan nor the new one being contemplated allow such a citizen review board to consider complaints made by police officers against other officers or complaints from officers against 
the police department.  

“This, the police association feels, should not be the case because in some instances – depending on the finding and severity of the conduct – the commissioner will be responsible for the internal tribunal,” the association’s statement to the Compass read. “This creates issues for the police association because our members are being denied an opportunity to fair trial which, in our view, is a breach of natural justice. 

“Certain categories of complaints by police officers against another police officer[s] or against police management cannot be handled in house and need to be handled by an independent body.”  

This is a tricky issue when it come to officers’ disputes with other officers. One case the association points to involves a well-publicised bust up that occurred last year between Chief Inspector Frank Owens and Police Constable Cardiff Robinson.  

According to a 5 September filing in Grand Court, an attorney acting on behalf of Mr. Robinson has sought access to a prosecutor’s case file and ruling from July 2012 where the director of public prosecutions “chose not to pursue a criminal charge of assault by a senior police officer against [Mr. Robinson] and gave her reasons for doing so”. The senior police officer involved was Mr. Owens. The incident is alleged to have occurred on 15 February, 2012, outside the courthouse in George Town.  

According to Mr. Robinson’s application for judicial review, a complaint file was forwarded by the police service to Director of Public Prosecutions Cheryll Richards on 26 March for legal advice.  

“On or about 30 July, 2012, the director of public prosecutions advised that a criminal charge of assault was made out against [Mr.] Owens, but a decision had also been made not to proceed with a charge against him on the grounds of public interest immunity,” the judicial review application stated. “In fact, [the director of public prosecutions] recommended that the matter be handled internally by police.” In previous statements about the 15 February incident, a police spokesperson noted: “There is no suggestion that an assault took place.”  

Speaking before the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee in March 2012, Police Commissioner David Baines also referenced the incident.  

“Certainly, from the nature of it, no assault has taken place, even though there is somebody suggesting it has taken place and yet it has hit the media,” Mr. Baines said.  

Mr. Baines’ comments were made prior to the file being forwarded to Ms Richards’ office for legal advice on 26 March.  

Police Association President Rudolph Gordon said this is a prime example of a case where Mr. Baines should not be the one to decide on discipline.  

“The police association feels [Complaints Commissioner Nicola] Williams is highly qualified to handle the task and, if given the additional support required to properly investigate matters, will do an excellent job,” the association’s statement read.  

The reasons for scuttling the initial plan for a public complaints authority under the Police Law was largely due to cost, said Peter Gough, manager of the government’s Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs. “With our present economic climate, we couldn’t afford to set up an authority costing $750,000 to $1 million a year based on the type of complaints we were receiving.”  

However, Mr. Gough said the portfolio believes a similar body will be created “very shortly” and that legislation amending the Police Law to allow for it is expected to come to Cabinet prior to the dissolution of parliament on 26 March. Mr. Gough said it was decided that Ms Williams, as a civil servant, might not provide the perceived independence that a private citizens board might give.  

“We wanted a civilian oversight board,” Mr. Gough said.  

Amendments to the Police Law that would create such a group are still in discussion. Mr. Gough said he expects the civilian oversight board – called the Public Police Complaints Commission – to have between three and five members. It will be attached to the Commissions Secretariat, the entity that manages other oversight commissions such as the Constitutional Commission, the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, the Commission for Standards in Public Life and the Human Rights Commission. 

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4 COMMENTS

  1. We do not need a complete civilian oversigt board, but an independent tribunal body of people carefully selected like the appeal court judges. This is something we need to be very careful about because there can be much corruption. When I say this I mean that sertain police officers and certain civilian persons from certain foreign countries has a tendancy to look after their own in a different way. I mean they protect their own under whatever circumstances. I am a civilian I have witnessed certain things which take place in the force with expat police. They have a tendancy to cover up for their own. Caymanians would not stand a chance take my word on that. Too much back door dealing with foreign police, and we hear about it happening in traffic accidents, issuing of driving permits,obtaining immigration stay and the list go on. Want to know what is really going on in the police force, then check all the police officers who have sgt. and inspt. and sup. stripes on their shoulders. They are all expats. They look out for each other and tip off their own when a vacancy is coming up.

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  2. @Hunter your post consists of some truths and half truths. It doesn’t present an objective overview of the situation in the R.C.I.P now. To say that everyone from sergeants upwards are all expats is for want of a better description, is a grossly biased statement. whatever reason(s) you may have for this misrepresentation and distortion of the facts i do not know. I know several sergeants Inspectors, chief inspectors who are locals who took their examination and interviews and got their promotion on merits. On whether there are some bias on the part of certain foreign senior officers or otherwise,to protect their own, there is some truth in this and this should never been allowed to infiltrate the ranks of the R.C.I.P. Mr. Hunter you need to get updated on what goes on in your country.Police officers do not issue driving permit for over 6 years now. These are handled by the Department of Vehicle Licenses. If you did not know let me inform you for over 32 years the police and the immigration departments have been separated, so police do not have anything to do with immigration extensions. You mentioned that Caymanians would not stand a chance, but Tyrannical behavior prevails when good people refuse to take a stand against it. So Caymanians need to tackle the issue and report it when they see corruption taking place to expose the perpetrators. Yes there seems to be a pattern that people tend to come from foreign countries. But remember that the reason for this many locals do not see themselves as embarking on a career in law and order and I do believe more effort should be made to recruit locally and when this comes up short ,only then should recruitment be made overseas. In saying this, the security of the Islands cannot be put on hold while we wait unnecessarily long to fill the vacancies. Lots of things depend on the control of crimes in a country. I instance here Tourism, Business,Business confidence amongst areas. So I would constructive criticism is good but get the facts before you draw your conclusions

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  3. Mr Islander thanks for your comments, but sad to say I believe I know some things that you do not know. I am very very well informed of what go on in this island. I also know that Licence and Immigration is handled separately, However; When I speak about the driving licence issue. I am not speaking directly, I am speaking in directly, where somebody knows somebody who talks to somebody. Do you understand that now. And when I speak about immigration it is the same, you have somebody calling up their buddy somebody, top dog and getting extensions for their somebody cousin instead of taking a number and sitting down and waiting. Mr Islander there is plenty that I know that you do not know, and it is not Caymanian officers pulling these strings.

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  4. @Hunter Well sir, as I said, Tyrants are only allowed to perpetrate their tyrannical behaviors when good people remain silent. The duty of a citizen is expose corruption where ever it exist. If we remain silent we will only allow them to continue and embolden their wrongs.We must stand up and be counted.

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