A police officer who was convicted of murder in Jamaica last month was serving at the time with the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service. His employment was terminated following his conviction on Nov. 19.
Tyrone Findlay was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the Jan. 1, 2010 fatal shooting of a man when he was a detective in the Manchester district of Jamaica.
Findlay was hired for the RCIPS armed support unit in May 2011, after he applied for a transfer, apparently believing he had been cleared of any wrongdoing in the line-of-duty shooting. He was suspended on full pay in July 2011 after prosecutors in Jamaica announced they were bringing murder charges.
In March this year, as the case dragged on without going to trial, RCIPS Commissioner David Baines made a successful application to allow Findlay to return to work in Cayman.
Mr. Baines said Findlay was put in a “behind the scenes” role that did not involve contact with the public in order to get some value from his salary, which the police were legally obliged to continue paying.
He was still serving with the RCIPS up until his trial in Manchester District Court, Jamaica, in October.
Mr. Baines said Findlay had received exemplary references from senior law enforcement officials in Jamaica prior to being hired in Cayman, with no mention of any open investigation against him.
Findlay and fellow detective Leonard Lindsay maintained they shot 27-year-old mason Anthony Richards and restaurant worker Roshaine Dixon, who they said were armed with a knife and a gun, on the beach in Alligator Pond in self defense while investigating reports of a robbery.
The prosecution, based on testimony from Dixon – who was injured in the shooting – said the plainclothes detectives shot the two unarmed men and then planted the weapons.
A jury unanimously found both police officers guilty of murder.
Brodrick Smith, Crown counsel with the Jamaica Department of Public Prosecutions told the Cayman Compass on Friday that during the delay in bringing charges against Findlay, he had successfully applied to work in the Cayman Islands. He confirmed that the conditions of Findlay’s bail were altered to allow him to continue working with the RCIPS while awaiting trial.
Smith acknowledged it was unusual for police to be successfully prosecuted for murder in Jamaica, despite a yearly average of 200-plus shooting deaths involving security forces.
In this case, he said, Dixon had testified that he and Richards were walking along the beach when the two detectives approached with guns drawn. He said Richards handed over $800 cash to the officers, and he handed over a knife, which he claimed he used for peeling vegetables at his job.
According to Dixon’s account, Findlay then shot Richards three times before turning to his partner and saying “bun him, bun him,” at which point Lindsay fired twice at the witness and he fell to the ground. Dixon said he pretended to be dead until emergency services arrived. He testified that neither he nor his friend was carrying a firearm. The prosecution suggested both the knife and a gun found on the victims’ were placed there by the police after the shooting.
According to Commissioner Baines, Findlay came in May 2011 with exemplary references from three senior officers with the Jamaica Constabulary Force and one from a sitting judge. He also had a “clean bill of health” from Jamaica’s anti-corruption unit.
“We were looking for experienced officers that had been firearms trained and could do that duty, that’s why he was brought over,” added Mr. Baines.
He said it was not unusual for armed police in Jamaica to be involved in shoot-outs with suspects and such an incident would not, in itself, be a black mark against an applicant.
In 2013 alone, 245 people were shot and killed by security forces in Jamaica, according to statistics from the Independent Commission of Investigations, a body set up in 2010 to investigate police shootings.
Mr. Baines said applicants to work in Cayman were required, as part of the recruitment process, to inform the police if they were the subject of any active investigations involving inappropriate or excessive use of force.
In this case, he said, Findlay, and the four people who gave him references, appear to have been genuinely unaware that the inquiry into the Alligator Pond shooting was continuing when he applied to work in Cayman.
The first the RCIPS hierarchy knew of the incident was in July 2011, when the Jamaican Director of Public Prosecutions announced it was proceeding with criminal charges.
“He (Findlay) notified myself and senior officers and returned to Jamaica to face the charges. Due to the nature of the charges, he was suspended at that point,” said Mr. Baines.
He said the officer had informed him that the shooting had been in the line of duty during a robbery investigation and that a gun and knife had been found on the suspects.
“From his version of events, he believed the matter had been investigated and he had been cleared. That was his understanding until 19 months afterwards when the DPP announced they were bringing these charges,” said Mr. Baines.
The commissioner said there were no concerns about Findlay’s work while in Cayman and confirmed he had personally made an application for him to return to duty in a non-operational role in March this year. At that time, he said, there was no indication of when the trial might occur and he had taken the decision to put him back to work.
He added, “I can’t make any comment about what happened at Alligator Pond, I can say from an RCIPS perspective, in view of his colleagues and his supervisors, he was an exemplary professional – motivated and committed. There were no concerns about his professionalism or his judgment.”
He said the law in Cayman mandates that any officer under investigation has the right to be treated as innocent until proven guilty and cannot be summarily fired, but must be suspended with pay.
If an expected appeal against the conviction is successful, Mr. Baines acknowledged it is possible that Findlay could return to work in Cayman.
He said it was concerning that the investigation into the shooting had taken so long to proceed.
“If the shooting takes place in January 2010 and it is July 2011 before the DPP makes a decision to charge – that is a significant length of time for what should have been a straight forward investigation.
“The officers didn’t dispute the shooting, it was not a cold case. Had it been dealt with in a 12-month period, we wouldn’t be where we are,” he added.
Since the Independent Commission of Investigations was established in 2010, there have been 40 cases referred to the Jamaica DPP. Findlay and Lindsay are among the first to be convicted.
Allegations that weapons have been planted following police shootings are not uncommon.
Earlier this year, Hamish Campbell, assistant commissioner of INDECOM, told Britain’s Independent newspaper, “We keep hearing far too often that a gun has been planted. Across the island, this is the story that has been alleged for years and years. ”
Jamaican police have killed more than 3,000 people since 1999, with only four officers convicted of murder in relation to those incidents, according to a submission to the United Nations from a human rights group, Jamaicans for Justice.
Their report said, “Reports of potentially unlawful police killings are replete with instances in which victims are shot multiple times and then denied medical treatment, ultimately resulting in their deaths. In other instances, victims are viciously beaten and then shot. Still others flee police and are hunted before they are gunned down.”
The report also makes claims of a lack of independence in investigations into police shootings and delays in bringing charges, pointing out that in 2010 it took the DPP an average
of 27 months to decide whether to bring charges against police officers suspected of unlawful killings.