Although the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service reported last week that vessels in its marine fleet were out of service for two-and-a-half years and cost nearly $600,000 to repair, the computerized records that normally would be used to verify those figures have never been recovered, the Cayman Compass has learned.
The admission was made in email correspondence obtained by the Compass following reports in the newspaper on the time spent in dock by Joint Marine Unit patrol craft between January 2011 and February 2014. Statistics provided by the RCIPS via a Freedom of Information request from the Compass indicated that three patrol boats were effectively out of service for more than two-and-a-half years, while another craft was decommissioned after the department spent nearly $90,000 trying to fix it.
What was not provided, and which the Compass had requested, was the number of times each patrol boat had been damaged and when those damages occurred.
The original open records request, filed Feb. 19, 2014, has been repeatedly delayed, largely due to multiple computer hard drive crashes in the server used to store police department data between late 2013 and early 2014 at the Citrus Grove building in George Town. Attempts have been made over the past year to recover the records, the majority of which were able to be restored, according to the government Computer Services Department.
However, it appears that not all records were successfully retrieved.
In response to the Compass’s follow-up request for the number of times the marine unit boats were damaged, the RCIPS information manager, Superintendent Adrian Seales, noted in an email to the Information Commissioner’s Office: “This question remains my biggest challenge in the absence of the service logs [for the patrol craft].” Mr. Seales indicated he contacted marine commanders to try and retrieve the information.
The Information Commissioner’s Office responded: “So you are saying that the [computer] records were not ever restored or were not able to be restored?”
Mr. Seales’s reply stated: “No – the marine commander manually word searched each vessel on the drive in gathering the answers provided through reports of which I am in possession. Not only [are] the records of the service logs gone, but so is the engineer who worked on the vessels.”
The information commissioner’s representative then responded: “This is still not clear. Was computer services successful in restoring the information? Yes or no? If no, what records are the marine commander searching through?”
Mr. Seales’s response: “No. Records searched – interoffice memoranda/reports.”
The Compass asked the Information Commissioner’s Office prior to the publication of a Sept. 21 story on the marine unit repairs and repair costs if it believed the RCIPS response was accurate. Deputy Information Manager Cory Martinson indicated he had no reason to believe the records provided were not accurate.
However, the RCIPS did not state that the records it provided in response to the Compass request had been extrapolated from other areas, and not from the source data on the corrupted computer files.
Cayman Islands Acting Information Commissioner Jan Liebaers, an archivist by trade, has repeatedly sounded the alarm following the Computer Services Department and the RCIPS’s ongoing efforts to recover trillions of bytes worth of police department data following hard drive crashes in October 2013 and March 2014. Mr. Liebaers has said the government needs to take steps to ensure this does not happen again.
Initially, officials in the Ministry of Home Affairs, which has oversight responsibility for the police service, reported that 1.2 terabytes of data on the Citrus Grove hard drive had potentially been corrupted.
“My main concern … was that reasonable efforts should be made to recover the data, and they appear to be doing that,” Mr. Liebaers said.
However, he expressed additional managerial concerns about the preservation of computerized data in general that the information commissioner believes should be addressed.
“How is it that a [hard drive] backup is corrupted and nobody knows?” Mr. Liebaers asked. “Aren’t backups tested occasionally to make sure they actually contain real, usable data? Apparently that was not the case.”
The Computer Services Department eventually found that a portion of the RCIPS server at Citrus Grove “did not get backed up.”
“The origin of this problem was traced back to the rebuilding of the server after the October 2013 crash, when the storage was divided into four logical data drives to effectively manage the RCIPS’s large volume of storage,” computer services officials reported. “After reviewing the backup logs, it was determined that the backup job for the RCIPS server was only manually updated with three of the four logical drives. So a portion of the server did not get backed up.”
The server contained a number of files, including marine unit operations data, as well as certain records held by the police commissioner’s office, authorities reported. However, officials have never been able to identify specific records that may have been lost.