Investigators working for the Cayman Islands Anti-Corruption Commission will be granted the legal right to carry some weapons and protective gear, if a recently proposed bill is approved by local lawmakers.
Amendments sought to the Anti-Corruption Law will let investigating officers carry body armor, batons, Tasers, pepper spray, handcuffs and other restraints in specific situations.
“It is simply about affording investigators the same health and safety protections that their counterparts in other entities, such as the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service, are afforded, given that they perform similar duties and have the same powers of arrest,” said Deborah Bodden, head of the commissions secretariat which manages the Anti-Corruption Commission. Until 2016, the Anti-Corruption Unit was staffed with seconded RCIPS officers, but has been granted the ability to hire its own investigators in recent years.
The commission secretariat now employs one senior investigator and six investigators, including one trainee. They are not RCIPS officers, but they are given the same powers under the law in the carrying out of various criminal investigations.
In the past two years, the number of arrests being made on behalf of the Anti-Corruption Commission has increased substantially.
Commission officers took 13 people into custody in connection with an alleged bribery scheme involving the English-language test administered by the Immigration Department to work permit holders. Twelve of those suspects were later charged and brought before the courts.
Three other people have been arrested in another suspected bribery case that involves at least one Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing employee.
Two men have been arrested in an ongoing probe of overtime payments to security officers at the Health Services Authority, and two suspects have been arrested in a fraud investigation involving US$1.2 million in controversial “loans” given to the Cayman Islands Football Association.
The uptick in activity regarding arrests made by the Anti-Corruption Unit has coincided with the appointment of a new board of civilian appointees in August 2016, headed by former Cayman Islands Attorney General Richard Coles. Before that, the Anti-Corruption Commission was headed by the commissioner of police and had two civil servants – the auditor general and the complaints commissioner – as members.
The amendment bill as proposed allows the governor to give the chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission the ability to assign officers the ability to carry protective gear. According to the legislation, officers can only use the items under the conditions prescribed by the commission chairman.
The chairman would also have to provide the RCIPS commissioner the names of the officers who are assigned to carry the protective gear and weapons.