'Lost' police data: Does not compute

 Where is the data?

We ask because the Cayman Islands police records that were “lost” in a computer hard-drive failure more than a year ago don’t seem to be anywhere near the surface of the Earth.

What makes the already-conspicuous information gap doubly peculiar is that government’s Computer Services Department thought they had successfully restored those files more than six months ago. But now police are saying, in effect, “That ain’t so.”

Lodged by a Cayman Compass reporter in February 2014, the open records request that kicked off the entire affair — including the first public disclosure that government hard drives had crashed multiple times — sought information about the police’s Joint Marine Unit patrol boats. The issue at hand, however, goes beyond any concern about watercraft maintenance.

The amount of information that government “lost” — 1.2 terabytes in all, we’ve been told — is huge. There’s no way that all of that data only pertained to Marine Unit patrol boats, which most likely comprised only the slimmest sliver of what was lost.

So another, more basic, question arises. Not only do we ask, “Where is the data?” but also, “What is the data?”

To that we’ll add, “How, exactly, was the data lost in the first place?” and “Why hasn’t it been definitively ‘found’ yet?”

We shudder when we ponder the possibility that some of the lost data might involve matters of extreme significance and sensitivity, particularly when Cayman officials are embroiled in several high-profile legal imbroglios that pivot on specific sets of government records — for example, the Freedom of Information battle for Operation Tempura documents; or the private members’ motion by former Premier McKeeva Bush, which alleges that local and U.K. officials, including current Premier Alden McLaughlin (who responded by suing Mr. Bush for defamation), engaged in a “conspiracy” to topple him from power.

What would happen if any records of that magnitude of importance were ever lost? Would government find out before it’s too late?

Would the public?



  1. Can I suggest the Compass returns to FOI with the following requests:
    To the Computer Services Department –
    can they confirm that all the data previously lost has now been recovered into a form where it is accessible?
    Are there any restrictions on accessing this data and, if so, what restrictions?
    How many individual hard drives were found to be corrupted?
    What are the sizes of these hard drives?
    How much data was on each hard drive corrupted?
    Did the data on these hard drives relate only to the RCIPS or was data from other agencies / Government Departments also contained on these hard drives

    To RCIPS –
    In addition to the data in relation to the Marine Unit, which other sections of the RCIPS suffered data loss?
    For each department, what was the nature of the data lost?
    That might be a good starting point.

  2. Maybe we should briefly roll this back to the original FOI request for records relating to the Marine Unit. If I read the previous story correctly most of the information requested would never have been held in a purely electronic format in the first place.

    We appear to be talking about documentation that normally has to be recorded and signed off by somebody – manually logged in other words. There should also be things like work dockets and invoices for repairs. If RCIPS are saying this is not the case then more than a few warning flags ought to be flying.

    I’ve found over the years that police forces are very adept at losing (or in the case of the Met in the UK accidentally destroying) records that could prove embarrassing to them. Could that be the case here?

  3. A few years ago one of my FOI requests received a response from the RCIPS along the lines that the records (in this case minutes from a meeting) had been stored on a laptop from which the hard drive had later been removed and then lost. No hard copies had apparently been kept.

    This latest story just sounds like history repeating itself only on a much larger scale.