Police theft: Missing drugs, missing answers

On July 13, someone, or “someones,” broke into a police evidence locker and absconded with 24 kilograms of cocaine and 33 kilograms of ganja. Based on analogous law enforcement estimates, the respective “street values” of those drugs would be nearly $1 million.

The recent revelation made by Police Commissioner David Baines – that suspected corrupt police officers are under investigation over the theft – could be cause for greater confidence in the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service or, potentially, the reverse.

The narrative promulgated by officials since the July break-in has over time, let’s say, “evolved.”

Right after the event occurred, the police issued a brief statement containing the following information:

There was an attempted break-in the night of July 13 at a container behind the George Town Police Station, storing old evidence and drugs awaiting disposal.

The padlocks on the container were broken but nothing was missing.

“Police have processed the scene and determined that nothing was taken from the container, possibly because the culprit(s) were interrupted by security checks of the grounds,” according to police.

Two months later, police revised their assessment of what had happened, and what had gone missing, namely “a quantity of illegal drugs,” according to a Compass news report that appeared Sept. 15.

A police statement said, “In addition to pursuing the culprits of this break-in and theft, we are reviewing internal controls and procedures with respect to the handling and storage of evidence.”

After the passage of another month, Deputy Governor Franz Manderson was asked about the topic in the Legislative Assembly by Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush. Under formal questioning on Oct. 15, Mr. Manderson revealed the amounts and types of drugs that were stolen. He also said that arrests had been made in connection with the theft and that further police warrants would be issued in the near future. (Just recently, however, police told the Compass that no specific arrests had been made in relation to the break-in …)

Following Mr. Manderson’s remarks, officials again went silent on the theft – until Nov. 27, when Commissioner Baines dropped his bombshell about corrupt police officers while speaking on the “CrossTalk” morning show on Rooster FM.

Mr. Baines also said that investigators weren’t able to confirm that the drugs had been stolen from the evidence locker until at least a week after the theft occurred, well after the initial statement on the incident had been issued.

The possible involvement of police in the theft may help explain why Commissioner Baines and other officials have trickled out the details of the crime as they have. That is, to borrow Commissioner Baines’s words, an “operational decision to pursue lines of inquiry covertly.”

The commissioner said two investigations are ongoing:

An internal one, to ferret out who within the police tipped off the thieves about the existence of the drugs, and

A criminal one, “against suspects who have been identified.”

We at the Compass understand frustrations caused by the perception that police aren’t being as forthcoming about an investigation as we’d perhaps like them to be.

On the other hand, as veteran observers of the realities of law enforcement, we realize that, particularly when facing the possibility of internal corruption, police often have legitimate reasons for not telling the public all that they know, right when they know it.

The ultimate test of whether our faith in the actions of our police is justified occurs, of course, in the courtroom – once arrests have been made, charges filed and evidence laid bare for everyone to view.

Commissioner Baines said, “If I’ve got corrupt officers, I don’t need to broadcast it. I need to do something positive. I need to convict them and get them out of the service.”

We agree, and for the sake of the reputation of the RCIPS, the sooner the better.

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  1. It is one thing for the RCIPS to say that they are not in a position to release any details about a matter that is under investigation and a completely different thing for them to make a statement like the following.

    "Police have processed the scene and determined that nothing was taken from the container……".

    There are two things of importance as it relates to the above mentioned statement.

    1. The RCIPS has acknowledge that the scene had been processed.

    2. The RCIPS has confirmed that after processing the scene that they had concluded that nothing was taken from the container.

    While I feel that the RCIPS does a good job for the most part if it has now become acceptable to make these types of public statements why would anybody believe anything that the RCIPS says going forward?

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  2. Everyone including the Commissioner know that this investigation has tongues wagging, assumptions being made and most of all is developing an icy wall around the RCIP.
    My thoughts were, that the public should wait on the investigation to unfold; however the public feels that there is major foot dragging Mr Commissioner…….
    Which I truly believe now, that you will need to put a time frame like any other criminal investigation, would have had and some evidence available to make a move on whether it is suspension or arrest.
    There is a very wide space………..left for concern, whereby Deputy Gov. Franz Manderson would state to the Opposition Leader in the Legislative Assembly on October 15th that arrest were made in connection with the theft of these drugs; however to have the Commissioner state that there were no arrest made….This is a national concern.
    Further eyebrows are being raised high and concern is growing like weeds "That something very fishy went on at that container, whereby that certain police officers or who ever, could have checked the containers and reported that "NOTHING" was missing, and that the perpetrators could have been interrupted by security checks of the grounds. Either this is slackness, not the truth or a big cover-up. People are not buying that piece of the story Mr Commissioner. Don’t be surprised that the public know much and is just waiting to see how long you will take to put the pedal to the metal. ”TOWN TALK” is that you will need to save your own back-side in this one and give the public something very very soon.

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  3. The word CORRUPTION is written all over this issue from the top to the bottom, and the Governor should do something really big like never done in the history of the Islands. This could make her legacy in the first term.

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  4. I think that every citizen of the Islands should notify the Governor of a short time to act on this issue. With this issue, who can you trust in the in this police force, which are people that are there to uphold the LAWS and protect the citizens of the Islands.

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  5. @ David Williams

    I think that page you suggest might be slightly misleading unless people read the whole article, it seems as if this David Tomlinson simply has an axe to grind with everyone from the Home Office down!

    ”Since 2001 following discipline proceedings against you whilst a serving officer you have made accusations of corruption and criminality against officers and former officers of the Constabulary, executive officers of the
    Cheshire Police Authority, members of the IPCC and government ministers.

    Your complaints and your subsequent appeals have been investigated and found to be without substance.

    Your requests for information under the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act have been in pursuit of your allegations.

    You currently have 30 requests under the FOI Act to the Constabulary, the Cheshire Police Authority, other constabularies and authorities, the IPCC and the Home Office all of which are in pursuit of your allegations.”

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  6. If you own a million dollar diamond ring would you keep it in a safe or in a container secured by a padlock?

    The drugs were in the evidence locker. But they were washed up on the beach. What possible trial could they have been used for?

    Just too tempting a target. Drugs washed up on the beach should be destroyed on the beach. Immediately.

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  7. @James Adams

    The point is that these were very simple FOI requests that in most cases required little more than a one line answer so why were they all ruled vexatious?

    I guess that you may not be familiar with UK FOIA because if you were you would recognise that deeming an applicant to be vexatious in this way is a rather convenient, and all too frequently misused, police get out to avoid dealing with awkward requests.

    It is a bit like saying no comment to a press enquiry and with exactly the same negative implications.

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  8. @David Williams

    At the risk of getting off topic..

    Actually I am quite familiar with the UK FOIA, having processed requests through it myself in the past.

    I completely agree that deeming something as ”vexatious” can be used as a ”no comment” which is why the responding authority has to justify its use.- Which they have below:-

    ”Your complaints and your subsequent appeals have been investigated and found to be without substance.

    Your requests for information under the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act have been in pursuit of your allegations.

    You currently have 30 requests under the FOI Act to the Constabulary, the Cheshire Police Authority, other constabularies and authorities, the IPCC and the Home Office all of which are in pursuit of your allegations.”

    My concern is that you’ve linked to a page on which someone who in my humble opinion has an axe to grind and is happy to waste the authority’s time with FOI requests has asked for information about a serving police officer (amongst many others).

    Your original post ”very interesting FOI request” suggests that there is something Machiavellian going on – I think that is misleading.

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