Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston

The former head of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s Professional Standards Unit has been hired as the senior investigator for the ombudsman’s office tasked with fielding public complaints about police misconduct.

Peter McLoughlin, who has served with the RCIPS since September 2009, left his post with the police on Jan. 5 just before he was hired to the newly created position in Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston’s office.

Mr. McLoughlin served 30 years with the Greater Manchester Police before arriving in Cayman.

The new public complaints function will be overseen by another new hire at the office, Deputy Ombudsman Sharon Roulstone, a long-time Caymanian attorney. The ombudsman will receive only residents’ complaints about officers. Internal issues – complaints made by officers against other officers – will still be dealt with inside the RCIPS by the Professional Standards Unit.

In an interview Wednesday, Ms. Hermiston said she realized there would be questions about Mr. McLoughlin’s appointment, given he had just left the RCIPS to staff what is supposed to be an independent authority looking into complaints about the police.

However, she urged observers not to have a knee-jerk reaction to the hire simply because Mr. McLoughlin was employed at RCIPS.

“We had a couple of [job] candidates who didn’t have a police background, and knowledge of how a police force works is absolutely crucial,” Ms. Hermiston said of the senior investigator position. “He’s been here for eight or nine years and was in charge of the Professional Standards Unit. That’s a way tougher job, to be inside the police, trying to investigate your colleagues.”

Ms. Hermiston is also setting up the ombudsman’s office to have levels of accountability, meaning Mr. McLoughlin will not be making decisions on cases alone.

“We will all be vigilant in looking for any kind of bias,” she said. “His decisions will go through Sharon.

“I’m not sure [the hire] doesn’t look right. People need to step back and say, ‘did they make an informed decision about the hire?’ Peter was the best candidate in that job pool. He’s got a unique view of the RCIPS because he was there, and his integrity is beyond question.”

Mr. McLoughlin has a busy time ahead in his new position.

It is estimated that hundreds of public complaints against the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service that have been filed since 2010 will have to be reviewed by the new ombudsman’s office since no one has been legally allowed to hear those cases.

The issue involves the failure of the government to follow amendments to the Police Law in 2010, which called for the appointment of the territory’s first police public complaints commission.

The commission was never appointed, largely due to funding and staffing difficulties. The RCIPS could still hear internal complaints filed by its own officers, but the police Professional Standards Unit no longer had any legal power to hear public complaints once the Police Law was changed.

Since the public commission was never appointed, it was not able to hear any of the complaints until now.

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