Responding to a lawmaker’s allegation of “blatant racism” within the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, Acting Police Commissioner Anthony Ennis said last week that the islands must maintain a culturally diverse force to serve a multicultural society.
Mr. Ennis, who took over from David Baines on June 1, told lawmakers that efforts were under way to “Caymanize” the RCIPS as much as possible, including the formation of another local police cadet class this year, focused on hiring Caymanians and permanent residents who are married to Caymanians.
Mr. Ennis said the police service officer contingent, at present, was about 45 percent Caymanian and 55 percent non-Caymanian.
“I’m not saying that we should not Caymanize the police service, but there will still be a reliance … to have a diverse police service because this is a diverse community,” he said.
Cayman had approximately 23,000 non-Caymanian work permit holders and government contract employees living in the islands earlier this year, not counting permanent residents and any dependents of the work permit holders. It is estimated the foreign work force here is comprised of some 120 different nationalities.
“There is a place in policing to have a diverse police service,” Mr. Ennis said.
West Bay MLA Bernie Bush asked Mr. Ennis earlier in the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee meeting on Thursday whether the “blatant racism” in the police service would be addressed to “get the morale of the police officers up.”
Mr. Ennis replied: “That’s a very difficult question for me to respond to. It is making a statement that, in the absence of specifics … it is something that I’m unable to respond to directly.
“When the new [police] commissioner is appointed, I would expect that one of his or her responsibilities is to not only engage with the community, but key stakeholders which are members of [the Legislative Assembly]. If you have issues of concern … I’m sure that will be an opportune time to raise those issues.”
Mr. Bush stated a number of allegations which, at the time of last Thursday’s Legislative Assembly meeting, had not been officially verified. However, a discrimination lawsuit – based on both age and nationality – was filed against the police service in late 2015 that set out some of the issues to which Mr. Bush referred.
The lawsuit was filed by the local police officers’ association on behalf of 10 former and current officers who claimed they were forced to retire or accept a lower rank in order to maintain employment, after reaching age 55. That retirement age, set under the previous version of the Cayman Islands Police Law, no longer applies to officers hired following the current Police Law’s effective date, Nov. 11, 2010. The retirement age for all police officers who joined the force after that date is now 60.
Anyone hired prior to that date who is below the rank of police superintendent must still be retired at age 55 or, if given the option, can be reengaged as a police constable or senior constable, the lowest ranks in the police service, the lawsuit filed on Jan. 11 claims. The lawsuit further alleges that U.K. police officers who joined the RCIPS prior to November 2010 are not being retired or reduced in rank in the same way as their Caymanian or Caribbean counterparts, once they reach age 55.
“Officers recruited to the RCIPS from the United Kingdom before Nov. 11, 2010 and who are British by nationality and non-gazetted officers [below the rank of superintendent] are not required to retire at age 55,” the lawsuit states. “Alternatively, if they are required to retire at age 55 they have, in practice, been reengaged without loss of rank.
“The effect of this discriminatory treatment is that non-British officers have been discriminated against in respect of their rights under section 9 of the Bill of Rights and this discrimination, which is on the grounds of their nationality, is also an unjustifiable breach of section 16 of the Bill of Rights.”
The Cayman Islands Constitution Order, 2009, bill of rights section 9 sets out the right to private and family life. Section 16 is the anti-discrimination section of the bill.
“The requirement to retire at age 55 has tangible consequences for the material and emotional well-being of the individual officers and their families,” the writ states. “The requirement that any reengagement must be at a reduced rank of constable or senior constable necessarily affects those of higher rank by their loss of status and professional reputation.”