Baines rebuffs ‘litany of accusations’

Alleging misconduct and “inadequate performance” by Cayman’s top police officer dating back to 2009, West Bay MLA Bernie Bush filed a formal complaint against Royal Cayman Islands Police Commissioner David Baines last week.

The complaint made to members of the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Cayman Islands government’s Ministry of Home Affairs and the senior officer on Cayman’s Anti-Corruption Unit, lays a list of allegations at the feet of Commissioner Baines and calls for a review under the Public Service Management Law. The complaint was forwarded Friday to Governor Helen Kilpatrick’s office, as the ministry itself has no legal power to sanction or discipline a police commissioner, government officials said.

The allegations blame Mr. Baines for such issues as 43 time barred criminal cases not being prosecuted, gunshot residue contamination issues at the George Town Police Station, difficulties with search warrants, a high number of police car crashes each year, the hiring of a police officer who was facing a murder investigation in Jamaica, missing drugs at the central police station, “illegal” roadblocks, an increase in complaints against police since Mr. Baines took office and the failure to set up a public police complaints authority. Those represented just 10 of the 20 allegations made by Mr. Bush, who did not return Cayman Compass calls seeking comment on the issue last week – despite quoting some of the accusations he made based on news articles in the Cayman Compass.

Commissioner Baines responded: “I am in receipt of Mr. Bernie Bush’s litany of accusations. I have referred the documentation to Her Excellency the Governor as the disciplinary authority for the Commissioner [rank] within the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.

“Mr. Bush, once again, demonstrates his ample capacity to repeat rumor, speculation and gossip without checking the facts, thereby speaking with total confidence from a position of total ignorance. Why let facts get in the way of a ‘grandstanding’ media headline?

“I will assist any inquiry or action initiated by Her Excellency the Governor. My only regret is the waste of time and money these misrepresentations and false accusations will cause in having them addressed to the satisfaction of all concerned.”

Cayman Islands Democratic Party leader McKeeva Bush, the opposition leader to whom MLA Bernie Bush is deputy leader, said Friday that he had not been aware Bernie Bush was going to take such a step last week.

“Unfortunately, I have just heard about it,” McKeeva Bush said. “He didn’t speak to me about it.”

Each of the accusations made by Bernie Bush are summarized below. They cannot be printed in full for legal reasons. Mr. Baines became commissioner of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service on June 1, 2009.

  1. 43 statute barred cases: Based on reports that appeared in the Compass in January 2011, Mr. Bush alleges 43 cases investigated between 2005 and 2010 did not make it to court on time and were effectively “statute barred” or time barred from prosecution.
  2. GSR contamination: The Compass reported in 2012 that powder leavings from gunshots, called gunshot residue or “GSR” had been found all over the George Town Police Station. An RCIPS scientific support officer at the time warned that police evidential use of GSR be “restricted” because of the issue.
  3. Search warrant “debacle”: This case involves complaints made against a Cayman Islands Justice of the Peace and a police officer who investigated a 2013 drug raid in Bodden Town where an illegal search warrant had been issued by the summary court.
  4. Police vehicle crashes: This claim alleges police are averaging “18+” vehicle crashes each year.
  5. Hiring of policeman on a murder charge: In this case, also reported in the Compass in 2011 and again last year, RCIPS officer Tyrone Finlay was being investigated in connection with a 2010 shooting and killing of a criminal suspect in Jamaica. Finlay was recruited by the RCIPS, then suspended “after media revelations.” He was then placed back on the force in the months prior to his conviction at trial.
  6. Missing drugs and firearms: This claim alleges police responded to an open records request about missing drugs and firearms in 2014 by stating “we have no document that states what drugs may or may not be missing.”
  7. Drugs missing, conviction quashed, no evidence: This involves the case of Eduardo Swaby-Gutierrez where the RCIPS failed to obtain certificates of analysis of cocaine and “lost evidence.”
  8. Illegal roadblocks: This alleges that the Cayman Islands Constitution Order (2009), which guarantees freedom of movement, and states that police are interfering with that constitutional right by implementing road checks.
  9. Police complaints: This alleges that complaints against police “doubled” in 2009, compared to the previous two years.
  10. Police Public Complaints Authority: A requirement under the Police Law that such a body be created to hear public allegations against police officers has never been followed.
  11. Financial Crime Unit evidence failure, case dismissed: This claim involves the 2014 criminal trial of Fernando Mendes, who was accused of stealing from his former employer in 2011. The allegation of crime against Mr. Mendes was dropped when police evidence went missing.
  12. Failure to respond: The claim here alleges certain RCIPS staff members went on a May 2010 luxury yacht cruise in the North Sound.
  13. Missing video evidence from central police station: Three charges of assaulting police against convicted murderer Raziel Jeffers were dismissed in October 2011 after video tape evidence from the central police station was lost by police, Mr. Bush alleged based on Cayman Compass reports on the matter.
  14. Missing persons: This allegation points out the missing persons cases of Anna Evans, Kerry-Ann Baker and Nathan Clarke, where those individuals were never found and, at least in one case, a suspected homicide case was never solved.
  15. Exorbitant number and amount of claims: This references a number of legal settlements made by government in relation to claims which totaled $435,518 between 2011 and 2013, Mr. Bush alleges.
  16. CCTV and plate reader failure: This complaint alleges the RCIPS has “failed to consistently have a working quality CCTV system and in many cases footage has failed to be put into evidence.”
  17. Inappropriate video: This allegation relates to the 2012 arrest of Dr. Frank McField by a police sergeant.
  18. Staff management: Mr. Bush accuses the RCIPS of “a failure to maintain Caymanian officers, many of whom have left the RCIPS since Mr. Baines took office.
  19. Police helicopter: This claim alleges a failure of succession planning with regard to the job of the RCIPS helicopter pilot.
  20. Theft of police cars: It is alleged that RCIPS failed to take disciplinary action after the November 2012 of an RCIPS vehicle and did not disclose vehicles lost or stolen since 2009.

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  1. It fascinates me the way what is defined by the Commissioner as a ‘waste of time and money’ seems to depend entirely on not whether or not the complaints merit investigation but on who they were made against and by whom they were made.

    For years my all complaints about the conduct of Operation Tempura were dismissed or ignored then suddenly, and rather conveniently for the Governor’s Office and the FCO, RCIPS have launched a full investigation into them and are even proposing to send two officers to the UK to interview me.

    Sadly, all this demonstrates is the urgent need for independent oversight of the police.