Just more than 10 percent of the internal investigations carried out against Royal Cayman Islands Police officers last year involved “statute barred” cases – cases in which the deadline to file charges was not met – according to data released this month by the RCIPS.
The police Professional Standards Unit received 97 reports of complaints made against officers during 2017 and 10 of those were for court cases that were not brought to prosecutors in time for charges to be filed.
The report does not detail what offenses were delayed to the point where it was too late for charges to be brought; however, most traffic-related offenses have a six-month time line from the date of a suspect’s arrest to when charges must be filed. If that time line is exceeded, the case is considered “statute barred” and the matter is discontinued.
Whenever a police officer fails to submit a case file within the statutorily required time limit, RCIPS policy requires a report to be made to the Professional Standards Unit.
The data on investigations by the Professional Standards Unit, which has – until recently – served as both the RCIPS internal affairs office and as a reception office for public complaints against police, was released via a police service annual report for 2017.
According to figures provided, 60 of the 97 complaints made against police during 2017 were made by the general public. The other 37 were made internally by supervisors against junior officers. It is likely the statute-barred cases would fall into the latter category.
In total, about one-third of the complaints were made against officers alleging “unprofessional conduct,” another 14 were for conduct prejudicial to good discipline. About half of the complaints had been resolved by the end of the year.
“A number of these complaints have been resolved and various actions have been taken by the Professional Standards Unit, such as a verbal and written reprimand, an action plan for development, or dismissal,” the RCIPS report stated.
Not all complaints against police are substantiated. According to the report, 39 complaints were closed with no further action taken. Two complaints are awaiting hearings before a police disciplinary tribunal and one investigation led to criminal charges against the officer involved.
The RCIPS has amassed hundreds of public complaints made against its officers since 2011 which have not been resolved, and are now the subject of review by the newly created Office of the Ombudsman.
Until Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston’s appointment and the formal creation of her office last year, no one had been legally allowed to hear the public police complaint 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 during this time, 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, that body did not hear any of the complaints either.
Some of the older complaints filed with the Professional Standards Unit were able to be resolved between the parties, she said, but that is only in cases where the person complaining about the police agreed with the settlement suggested.
Ms. Hermiston has said part of her office’s duties would be to review the outstanding public complaints made against police since 2011.