A civilian oversight panel is likely to be created this year to hear complaints against police officers and other civil servants who act “under the auspices of police.”
The Progressives-led government has indicated that amendments to the Police Law will be brought before the next session of the Legislative Assembly to create a Police Public Complaints Commission.
The commission will “act as an independent civilian oversight body for the police and will receive and order an investigation of any complaint made by a member of the public against a police officer,” according to the Progressives.
Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Commissioner David Baines said Monday that his organization fully supports the establishment of an independent police complaints body. “It will address any remaining perceptions that are held that we do not investigate our own and support public confidence in reporting actions or behavior that are inappropriate, unprofessional or criminal.”
Mr. Baines said the hard part will be striking a balance between being an oversight body and an independent investigative unit “and all the expense such would entail.”
“I suspect a hybrid of the two models would be the most effective, and affordable,” Mr. Baines said. “With serious complaints receiving direct and daily oversight of investigations, and the less serious complaints being progressed via the professional standards department and ratified by the oversight body as to its conclusions or otherwise.
“The detail of such a body in the Cayman Islands will be complicated, but the concept of an independent police complaints body I and the RCIPS fully support.”
Peter Gough, special assistant to Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, said the police complaints commission will comprise between three and five members and will be attached to the Commissions Secretariat. The secretariat 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.
The general idea, Mr. Gough said in February, is to resolve police complaints lodged by the public “at the lowest level possible,” reserving more serious complaints for the complaints commission’s review. For the most serious cases, the commission would probably need assistance of seconded investigators from organizations such as the Independent Police Complaints Commission in the U.K., he said.
The commission as proposed would not handle any internal police complaints filed against other police officers, or police complaints against department management. The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service Professional Standards Unit will still handle those internal matters, Mr. Gough said.
Discussions about amendments to the Police Law have been under way since late last year.
The lack of an established police complaints authority has been holding up the investigation of certain complaints by residents against police officers. According to records provided under Cayman’s Freedom of Information Law, the police service had not been able to resolve 19 of 42 public complaints filed against local police officers between September 2011 and February 2012.
The Progressives-led government said it also planned to bring legislation to the House in the current calendar year to bolster the Commission for Standards in Public Life.
Former Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor noted this as one of his top legislative priorities before departing the islands last month.
“That legislation has actually been drafted for quite a while, but it hasn’t made it through Cabinet and it hasn’t made it to the Legislative Assembly yet,” Mr. Taylor said.
The difficulty in establishing a commission aimed at policing public standards that subsequently has to ask the lawmakers it is supposed to be monitoring for the power to do its job, was noted by Commission for Standards in Public Life Chairwoman Karin Thompson in 2010.
By July 2010, Mrs. Thompson and her commission members had identified several areas where local laws needed to be improved to assist her group in its efforts.
Those improvements include the appointment of individuals to Cayman’s various public authorities, boards and committees, of which there are now well more than 100.
Another area of the law the commission reviewed was “appropriate sanctions” for public officials who don’t uphold the proper standards.
For instance, Mrs. Thompson noted that although there is a civil servants code of conduct in place, punishment for offenses of maladministration or corruption is not always clearly defined.