A police chief inspector accused of assaulting an officer under his command in a public confrontation in central George Town said he was simply admonishing the man in a “firm but fair” manner.
Responding for the first time to suggestions that he had bullied Police Constable Cardiff Robinson and assaulted him on two separate occasions, Chief Inspector Frank Owens said he had “admonished” the officer over what he described as “a minor performance issue.”
Speaking during a civil case brought by Mr. Robinson last week, Mr. Owens said no bullying or assaults had taken place. He said, “What you say is abuse didn’t happen. It is totally inaccurate, it is over the top and it is inflammatory.”
He said he had verbally disciplined the officer, but denied that he had been inches from his face, jabbing his finger and showering him in spittle, as the constable suggested in his evidence.
“If a senior police officer faces investigation every time he admonishes an officer for performance issues, that would seriously undermine the effectiveness of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service,” he added.
Mr. Robinson has claimed that Mr. Owens assaulted him on two occasions, which he described as part of a pattern of bullying behavior from the senior officer.
On the first occasion in June 2011, he says Mr. Owens threw a log book at him through the open door of a police car. Mr. Owens claimed he had no recollection of the incident, which he said he was informed about two years later as part of an internal police investigation.
“I deny ever throwing a book at PC Robinson or anybody else; it is not my way of doing things,” he said in a statement read to the court.
The constable also claims that Mr. Owens acted aggressively toward him, shouting and pointing his finger in his face, in a separate argument in February 2012.
In civil cases, assault is defined as an action that puts a person in threat of imminent bodily harm. Actual physical harm, which is not alleged in this case, is separately defined as battery.
Mr. Robinson, speaking in court on Wednesday, said Mr. Owens had aggressively questioned him about his movements while on foot patrol in central George Town.
“How close he was to me, spit was coming out his mouth to my face,” the officer said. “I ask him if he don’t see a uniform, some people looking, some people laughing, then he catch himself and said to me, ‘Go do some patrol work.’ I was so ashamed, I went behind a pole and I started to cry.”
He said he had made a criminal complaint about the incident and claimed the Department of Public Prosecutions had ruled that an offense of assault had taken place but decided not to proceed with the matter, recommending that it be dealt with internally.
The officer said he had tried to follow internal complaint procedures, but the process left him feeling frustrated and victimized.
“You report this bullying behavior, this bad treatment, and they are not getting any result,” he added.
He said he had brought the civil case as a way of getting justice.
A bystander, who ran a food stand in George Town and witnessed the second alleged assault, also gave evidence that he had seen a white officer yelling at a black officer, covering him in spittle.
Mr. Owens, in his evidence, said he had raised his voice in the argument but denied yelling. He said he frequently had to deal with disciplinary issues with officers under his command in the George Town district, including Mr. Robinson.
He acknowledged there were some officers that might not like him, but said it was part of his job to give orders and deal with performance issues. He said he believed Mr. Robinson had a problem with being told what to do.
Addressing the two specific assaults alleged in the claim, Mr. Owens said he had no recollection of any incident involving a log book and denied it ever happened.
Of the second incident, he said he was doing check-ups in George Town following complaints from senior management and the public that officers ordered on increased foot patrol in the capital following an armed robbery at jewelry store Diamonds International were not seen carrying out their duties.
He said he had eventually contacted Mr. Robinson, who claimed he was at Cayman National Bank doing check-ups, and summoned the constable to meet him close to the court building.
The two police officers gave different accounts of the argument that took place, but both indicated in evidence that Mr. Owens had disputed the constable’s story and accused him of neglecting his patrol.
Mr. Owens said he admonished the officer and moved on, considering the matter dealt with.
“I never allowed saliva to hit him, I was not intimidating,” he said. “I reject any suggestion that my actions went beyond what was necessary or appropriate.”
The case was adjourned to allow two additional witnesses, who were unable to attend last week, to give evidence.