Police discipline an area ‘to improve on’

Under questioning from Cayman Islands lawmakers last week, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson admitted that some further work is needed to clear up issues with regard to disciplining local police officers.

“We all are very aware of the number of police who have been in the news, but more importantly, the number that come to us constantly with their complaints of disciplinary matters which [lawmakers] have no jurisdiction over,” East End MLA Arden McLean said, noting that a number of lawsuits had been filed in the local courts involving such cases.

“I am of the view … this is an area that we need to improve on,” Mr. Manderson said. “We have talked this through with the commissioner of police. We have all agreed that some additional resources need to made available to the [commissioner] when he’s making decisions relation to human resources, in relation to the dismissal or reduction in rank of his staff.”

Mr. McLean asked what resources were being allocated to the police regarding the disciplinary matters.

Mr. Manderson replied, “Someone that they can call up and get quick legal advice. It’s important that the commissioner have access to legal advice so that we get it right the first time. We have worked that out with the attorney general.”

Some of the recent cases involving police officers challenging department actions or disciplinary decisions include:

*A police constable who sued the department after an incident with an RCIPS chief inspector claiming he was assaulted twice on duty by the chief inspector.

*A police inspector who was demoted, then reinstated filed a complaint with the governor against Police Commissioner David Baines and Deputy RCIPS Commissioner Steve Brougham. The inspector was reinstated following a ruling that overturned his demotion.

*A request for judicial review was filed by a veteran police officer who was terminated following a disciplinary hearing. He appealed the matter, won his job back and was then retired by Commissioner Baines.

*The head of the police association was placed under investigation by the department after he spoke to the Cayman Compass about lie detector tests that were given to more than 40 serving police officers. He was eventually cleared and the department claimed the investigation had nothing to do with the inspector speaking with the press. The inspector was “reassigned” to the night shift at George Town police station.

There have been repeated complaints from police and some legislators that the RCIPS internal disciplinary process is unfair.

For instance, West Bay MLA Bernie Bush, during the same finance committee debate, asked who had conducted the probe into Mr. Baines’s actions on Jan. 1, 2014 in striking suspects involved in a jewelry store robbery with his vehicle. Mr. Baines was cleared of any wrongdoing in connection with the probe later in the year.

However, Mr. Bush said the question of who conducted that investigation has never been answered. Mr. Manderson did not respond to this question last week.

According to a statement sent to the Cayman Compass by a police spokesperson earlier this year on the matter: “Immediately after the arrest of the suspects, Commissioner Baines telephoned Acting Governor Franz Manderson. Mr. Baines informed the acting governor of the circumstances and stated, as he had been involved and had injured a suspect, that he would step away from the investigation. Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis was appointed to oversee the circumstances, including the actions of Commissioner Baines.”

Complaints authority

The Progressives-led government has indicated that amendments to the Police Law will be brought before 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.

Commissioner Baines said in September 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.”

Peter Gough, special assistant to Deputy Governor 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.

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1 COMMENT

  1. What is glaringly obvious to everyone that lives on Cayman is that we need a board which is independent from the RCIPS that handles discipline of officers.

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