A Royal Cayman Islands Police Service constable has sued a police chief inspector and Police Commissioner David Baines, claiming he has been subjected to assaults and bullying while on the job over a period of two years.
According to the writ filed by Police Constable Cardiff Robinson on 10 April, he was assaulted twice by Chief Inspector Frank Owens and in addition “has been verbally abused, intimidated by threats of his contract not being renewed, treated with disrespect in front of other officers and unfairly reprimanded on other occasions by [Mr. Owens]”.
Mr. Robinson, a Jamaican national, in addition to seeking general and specific damages from his employer, is also seeking a declaration by the police service that his rights have been breached because many of his complaints simply hadn’t been investigated by the department.
The writ also seeks: “A declaration that the internal investigation system presently in place within the RCIPS [i.e. the Professional Standards Unit] produces a real danger of bias and thus is likely to breach its duty to act fairly without bias, whether the bias be imputed or apparent.”
The Caymanian Compass has sought comment from the police service and Chief Inspector Owens personally on this action. Mr. Owens did not respond in his personal capacity by press time Sunday. The police service issued the following: “As it appears that the matter is subject to legal proceedings it would be inappropriate for the RCIPS to make any comment.”
The first ‘assault’
The lawsuit alleges that Mr. Robinson was assaulted after Chief Inspector Owens approached him in a car park on 1 June, 2011, and noted that a department “log book” had not been updated. According to the filing, Mr. Robinson said that the log book often couldn’t be found since a number of other officers were using the same vehicle due to a vehicle shortage.
“The first defendant” [referring to Mr. Owens] aggressively threw the reasonably heavy log book at the plaintiff [Mr. Robinson] through the open door of a police car … which caught the plaintiff [Mr. Robinson] in the face and chest, exclaiming ‘you need to get this up to date’,” the lawsuit states. “The incident happened in full view of another police officer and a number of civilians walking by.”
According to Mr. Robinson’s claim, he was called into Mr. Owens’ office where he claimed his supervisor made “a number of other derogatory remarks” about Mr. Robinson’s work assignments and stated “you are high on my radar”.
Mr. Robinson said he reported the incident to an RCIPS deputy commissioner. He was never informed as to any action taken regarding that complaint.
The second ‘assault’
Another bust up between the two officers was reported in the press.
It occurred on 15 February, 2012 when Chief Inspector Owens and Constable Robinson met up with each other in central George Town.
According to the lawsuit, Mr. Owens asked Mr. Robinson where he was coming from. Mr. Robinson said he had been doing routine security checks at the nearby Cayman National Bank on Dr. Roys Drive.
According to court records, Mr. Owens stated “there is no Cayman National Bank in town”, at which point the two got into an argument that ended when Mr. Robinson showed his supervisor where the bank was located.
The lawsuit states: “[Mr. Owens] then raised his voice again and said [to Mr. Robinson] ‘what were you doing in the bank?’ Mr. Robinson replied saying ‘I went to the bank to make checks to ensure everything was alright [sic] as per my duty briefing. Followed by ‘Sir, if you disbelieve me, you can ask the security officer or you can check the cameras to be verified that I went to the bank to make checks…”
The lawsuit continues: “[Mr. Owens] immediately, with one swift movement, turned and quickly made two aggressive steps towards [Mr. Robinson] with his head pushed in towards [Mr. Robinson’s] face an inch away from [Mr. Robinson’s] nose with his finger also pointing into [Mr. Robinson’s] face and screamed ‘don’t try me, don’t try me Cardiff’. [Mr. Robinson] had to move his head to one side to avoid spit from [Mr. Owen’s] mouth catching him in the face.”
Although no blows were landed, the Director of Public Prosecutions office did determine in July 2012 that a criminal charge of common assault had been made out against [Mr. Owens] in connection with the incident. However, the director’s office stated “it was not in the public interest” to prosecute [Mr. Owens] and recommended that the matter be dealt with through the RCIPS internal disciplinary process.
According to Mr. Robinson’s claim, that is now impossible.
“[Commissioner Baines] speaking before the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee in March of 2012, when asked about the George Town assault incident with [Mr. Robinson] and [Mr. Owens] stated: “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.”
According to the lawsuit, Mr. Robinson is now “afraid to be alone” with Mr. Owens “for fear [Mr. Owens] will trump up some charge to get [Mr. Robinson] in trouble”.
Moreover, the claim has raised issues, particularly with regard to the second assault referred to, as to whether the police commissioner alone is who gets to decide “whether an officer … is properly and independently investigated by the Professional Standards Unit”.
“The [RCIPS] Police Association at trial will aver that it has logged numerous complaints from a number officers evolving from incidents with [Mr. Owens] and to [Mr. Robinson’s] knowledge, there has never been an condemnation from senior officers …
“Unlike the United Kingdom, there is currently no independent police complaints commission to handle internal complaints,” the lawsuit states.
Although the Police Law 2010 does make provision for setting up such an authority, that has not occurred.
“The Professional Standards Unit is not an independent body and is capable of being influenced by senior RCIPS officers including and especially [the police commissioner],” the writ states. “[Mr. Robinson] is unable to receive a fair hearing on any of his complaints against [Chief Inspector Owens].”