Cop claims assaults, bullying

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.” 

 

Complaints 

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].” 

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13 COMMENTS

  1. These allegations once again underscore the need for an independent police complaints commission to handle internal complaints. It also seems very strange that, despite the fact that the Police Law 2010 makes provision for setting up such an authority, that this has not occurred.

    The next government needs to move quickly to replace the existing internal investigation system (i.e. the Professional Standards Unit) with the more independent police complaints commission.

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  2. After reading about these assaults, my suggestions are that a serious investigation need to be done. This sounds very bad. One day some one is going to be hurt in the force because of this behavior. The commissioner does not need to think that people on the street do not know what is going on in the police force. The commissioner need to pay good attention that much suspicions of prejudice is talked about on the streets concerning foreign police officers. MR COMMISSIONER,THE PUBLIC IS AWARE. A serious proper investigation need to be carried out in this report.

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  3. I am a proud Caymanian and I agree with Hunter and MackB. I believe this COMMISSIONER needs to pack his bags and go home because from what I have been reading in the media he is not CLEANING his house properly with all of these complaints against senior officers and nothing is being done about it. He wants to tackle corruption as the head of the anti-corruption unit but common sense you have to CLEAN UP YOUR HOUSE with all the problems you having. As a Caymanian this is my country and I am appaled to hear what is going on in the service..its a crying shame!!!! COMMISSIONER PEOPLE ARE WATCHING VERY CLOSELY.

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  4. Mr. Robinson I applaud you for the stance you have taken to stand up and fight for what you believe in amid the threats on non-contract renewal and other stuff. There are many other Officers like you suffering in silence but because they have a household to feed they say nothing. DO NOT BE AFRAID SPEAK UP BECAUSE YOU ARE A JAMAICAN. I a Caymanian have alot of Jamaican friends and fair should be fair.

    People have to remember that when you do evil to people it will catch up with you.

    A word of encouragement is to continue to the best of your ability to serve the community of the Cayman Islands without fear or favour.

    KUDOS TO MR. CARDIFF ROBINSON AND COMMISSIONER YOU NEED TO PACK YOUR BAGS AND GO HOME CAUSE YOU JUST MAKING THINGS WORSE..

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  5. Office of the COMPLAINTS COMMISSIONER!!!

    Its laughable to know that one can expect true accountability in such a sensitive and high impact government body charge with national security affairs of this great country such as the RCIPS, that there is no proper INDEPENDENT body set up outside of the RCIPS’ remit to manage claims of abuse, corruption, human rights violations or the like other than with the Police Commissioner????

    What will it take to correct this risk immediately?

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  6. Maybe I am old-fashioned but the traditional way to solve disputes like this was for a senior officer to tell the two protagonists to go away and come back when they had resolved it.

    That normally resulted in the persons involved going somewhere private (no rank, no witnesses, no rules) and beating eight kinds of you know what out of each other to settle the dispute. By comparison this is turning into two old ladies swinging handbags at each other.

    As others have observed this is indicative of weak leadership and senior officers not willing to plant a well-deserved boot up the backside of officers who choose to act like five-year-olds. The problem is that the Commissioner does not run RCIPS by himself, he has deputies and subordinates to deal with things like this so what were they all doing?

    Personally, if this was to be settled man-to-man my money would be on Constable Robinson.

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  7. Mr. Cardiff Robinson I congratulate you for your courage for standing up for your rights.One of the posters before said something to the effect that Commissioner Bains must be aware that the public is aware of what is going on in the RCIPS .It seems that there has been a calculated effort for a very long time to ensure that the public do not become aware of the bully-ism and intimidation that goes on in the Police.The hanging sword of discipline has been hanging over the officers heads most menacingly. It is not just under this Commissioner of Police, but I believe that under this Commissioner, it has reached a high, or the highest pitch, under his watch. Many offices suffered injustice but they felt intimidated or threatened with the fact that, if they speak too loudly, it might mean loss of their jobs or non-renewal of their contract and, i think that especially, west Indian officers suffer most from this injustice.How can we expect Police officers to execute their jobs to the highest standard of impartiality,fairness,and efficiency to the public of these Islands when they are carrying a daily baggage with them? The Police association tried their best for their members welfare, but, to be frank, there is only so far that this body can can go.The Commissioner or his Deputy can Chair this body.The Police Law restricts what they can ask for under the law. So there is a conflict of interest. Hats off to you for your courage Cardiff, and I hope that a precedent will be set when the court rules on this case, so that other persons who suffer similar injustice will not be afraid to take a stand for their rights. This could not happen in the UK, so how come it is happening here?

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  8. @ UncleDave you are more than old fashion, you have been watching too many old TV movies. Modern Organizations in an era of human rights do not operate that way. the Duel days are long gone

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  9. Cardiff Robinson I am glad you stood up for yourself, please do not believe because you are a Jamaican that you too don’t have rights.

    I am curious, what nationality is Chief Inspector Owens? Where is he from?

    These are the same nasty officers that look down on Caymanians and intimidate people!! Coming here and living a good life and making a good salary!!

    Commissioner Baines does have others who run the RCIPS with him and whom he have to answer to like Duncan Taylor… well #justsaying Taylor and Baines you both need to pack your bags and go home because things are not getting any better with the likes of you two on this little rock which I call home!! You could not get away with all that is happening here if you were in the UK…book your flights and go home…goodbye!!

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  10. @Islander – that’s exactly the point.

    Since my youth (many years ago now) we’ve moved away from working out little personality clashes like this face to face and resorted to running screaming for lawyers, the courts and labour unions, like little kids crying for their Moms when they get hurt, to sort everything out. In fact now it seems most people do anything but actually face the issues and deal with them head on.

    These are police officers. If they cannot sort out petty squabbles like men they should both consider less hazardous employment, possibly something like hairdressing.

    According to this story Robinson was verbally assaulted and threatened. If a member of the public had done that I hope the response would have been a bit more robust and a lot more physical.

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