Police insist their ability to investigate criminal complaints against officers has improved since a traffic cop, suspected of serious offenses, was offered the chance to resign from the service.
Police leadership characterized their decision not to pursue a criminal investigation against traffic officer Herbert Muschette as being down to a lack of resources and the unwillingness of witnesses to give statements, rather than any deal with the officer.
Details of the internal investigation emerged during a civil lawsuit filed by Mr. Muschette for wrongful dismissal. He claimed he was forced to resign in 2010 or face charges over serious allegations, which included drug trafficking and soliciting sex from female motorists in return for leniency on traffic tickets.
He has always denied the allegations and no charges were ever brought.
His case was thrown out after a judge decided that a conversation between Mr. Muschette and deputy commissioner Steve Brougham had not amounted to a threat that the officer would be fired if he did not resign.
Justice Alex Henderson ruled that Mr. Muschette’s recollection of the conversation had been magnified and distorted by stress and concluded there had been no “resign or else” ultimatum.
The judge accepted, however, that the deputy commissioner had wanted the officer to quit and had indicated that his resignation would put an end to ongoing investigations.
A Royal Cayman Islands Police Service spokeswoman declined to comment on the specifics of this case.
She acknowledged that the resources open to the police service to investigate internal complaints had been insufficient at that time and insisted things had improved since.
“DCP Brougham reiterated during the court case that the RCIPS is in a very different place now than we were four years ago when a deficit of 85 officers and a lack of investigative resources meant that our options for investigating allegations of criminality/corruption of staff were limited,” she said.
She added that all allegations against police officers were dealt with seriously.
“The RCIPS is committed to fully investigate any criminal matter involving our staff, whether they be police officers or members of support staff. However, as is the case with allegations made against members of the public, the individuals making the claims must be in a position to provide corroboration through witness statements or other evidence. It is unfortunate … sometimes allegations are made, but there is a reluctance, for whatever reason, to back those allegations up with hard evidence,” she said.
The spokeswoman dismissed suggestions that a resignation would be enough to let an officer accused of corruption off the hook, if evidence was available.
“Let us stress that any suggestion that we would allow an officer to resign rather than carry out an investigation, where evidence of criminality was available, is ludicrous. Our internal complaints and investigation procedures are robust and open to scrutiny. A tremendous amount of work has taken place over the past four years to improve staff training and professionalize the RCIPS. But let us be clear, there is no place in the RCIPS for any member of staff who does not meet the high levels of professionalism we expect, or our communities deserve.
“Members of the public and the media have witnessed a very different approach from the RCIPS in recent times. While again we don’t want to talk about specific cases, your publication, the Caymanian Compass, has extensively covered instances where we are now rigorously investigating, arresting and convicting members of staff.
“Members of the public can have every confidence that we take such matters extremely seriously, our recent activity has proved that.”