Government fails to meet FOI requests on missing police records


An open records request in February 2014 seeking details of certain expenses and maintenance data for the Joint Marine Unit that was initially “lost” in a computer hard-drive crash has apparently been either delayed or ignored for the past six months.  

Officials with the Cayman Islands Information Commissioner’s Office confirmed Thursday that they would have to open an appeal against the police to retrieve the records if they did not receive a response.  

The issue of the “lost” files of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Marine Unit has been ongoing since last summer when the Cayman Compass was told that a number of relevant records had been compromised after multiple hard drive failures at the Citrus Grove building.  

Last October, police officers noted they still could not open computer records they believed had been restored following the computer crashes. The Computer Services Department indicated in October that the relevant records had been restored.  

A November email from then-RCIPS information manager, Chief Inspector Raymond Christian, stated: “Since [computer services] restored the files, apparently they have not received any complaints from the Marine Base that they are unable to open the files. It is my understanding that [computer services] instructed them to report back to them any files that they were unable to open.” 

Mr. Christian indicated last week that the request had been passed on to current RCIPS information manager, Superintendent Adrian Seales.  

On Monday, Mr. Seales said, “The data has not been restored. Two restore links were provided from [computer services], the first was done and placed in the corrupted folder, which ended up being corrupt. The second restore link returned folders within the drive but data is missing. 

“In brief, the document sought to accurately answer the FOI questions is blank. CSD have not responded with a cause or to a resolution to the problem(s).”  

Computer services officials did not respond to additional requests for comment Monday.  

Missing data  

RCIPS representatives, who were responding to an open records request filed by the Cayman Compass in February 2014, revealed the hard drive crashes had occurred when information related to the request about Marine Unit patrol boats could not be located. 

Mr. Christian reported numerous times that officers were searching for the relevant records sought by the request for the period from Jan. 1, 2011 to Feb. 19, 2014.  

The request for information read: “All of the watercraft used as part of the Joint Marine Unit’s operations by name of the boat. How many times each of those watercraft have a) broken down, have been damaged or were otherwise found to be deficient and have required repairs or replacement; b) the period of time they were out of service; c) the cost of making the repairs; d) when they were returned to service; e) if they were not returned to service, what happened to the watercraft.” 

Some of the repair cost information has been provided as part of the request, but Mr. Christian said data related to the time the vessels were out of service was on the government hard drives that had crashed several times. The last recorded crash occurred in March 2014. 

Since November 2014, the Information Commissioner’s Office has been attempting to follow up with the RCIPS to retrieve the relevant files. The RCIPS initially blamed the government Computer Services Department over the issue and then stopped responding to the commissioner’s office requests altogether.  

Emails sent to police by the commissioner’s office in December and in January received responses that the RCIPS was still seeking to retrieve the data. Follow-up emails sent in February and again last month received no response from the police.  

Hard drive crash  

The March 2014 hard drive crash, which affected five drives containing government data, caused the stored data on those drives to be corrupted, officials confirmed. 

“A series of hard drive failures occurred on the server, the server itself did not fail,” Wesley Howell, deputy chief officer of the Ministry of Home Affairs, said at the time. “The server held data for the RCIPS, specific types and exact number of files that are corrupted are unknown. The file share that has the corrupted files holds 1.2 terabytes of data.” A terabyte is equal to 1,000 gigabytes or 1 trillion bytes of computerized data. 

Over a period of months, the Computer Services Department worked to restore the corrupted data, and by August 2014 reported that all but 10.6 megabytes had been retrieved. The Compass then renewed its open records request for the Marine Unit information. The open records request for the Marine Unit information remained outstanding as of press time. 

The police records are housed in a server in Citrus Grove.


  1. Hard drives fail! That is one of the reasons why data is frequently saved to tape or some other form of removable media as part of a larger business/disaster recovery plan.

    While this might not be the case with the CIG I think that in many instances these type of events are not the result of the technical resources not outlining their needs or not knowing what needs to be done, but instead the result of financial or other constraints imposed by executives that don’t have any appreciation of the risks associated with the decisions that they are making.

    At this stage there are a few critical questions that need to be answered.

    1. Is there a formal business/disaster recovery plan in place?
    2. Is there a formal process in place to ensure that all CIG data is saved to tape or some other form of removable media on an ongoing basis?
    3. How often is the business/disaster recovery plan tested and when was it last tested?
    4. Are there any financial or other constraints preventing the CIG technical resources from implementing their recommended disaster recovery solutions?

  2. There are numerous services that allow secure back up online to a remote server.

    The cost for an individual is about $100 USD per year. I would imagine it would cost more for all the government records but it would be good insurance.

    As for the FOI request I believe the police boats are out of action a lot. This would explain why they never have time to take action against the Stingray City boats that blatantly ignore the posted NO WAKE signs on the canal out to the North Sound.
    The result of which is continuous damage to the seawalls and mangroves that line the canal.

  3. The computer software sounds like it was well powered, but where is the hard drive, in Mount trash more or still in the system . I have a good computer forensic expert that can tell what’s going on with these hard drives. Or, maybe Hillary could help she knows about hard drives.