Police complaints dominate first year for Ombudsman

In its first full year in operation, the Cayman Islands Office of the Ombudsman received 230 cases, nearly two-thirds of which related to police complaints.

In its 2018 Annual Report, released by the office on Thursday, the ombudsman recognised that a backlog of police complaints had been expected, as the independent oversight body works to process eight years of cases.

“A significant amount of work in this office has been directed towards the establishment of this [police complaints] program over the last year. This has included hiring two experienced investigators,” the report reads.

“Another complicating factor is that we received a backlog of complaints reaching back to 2010 because of a delay in creating a police complaints authority. This significant backlog had to be catalogued, assessed and prioritised.”

Of the 143 police complaints received by the office in 2018, 76 were resolved and 67 were carried over to 2019.

“We resolved 18 [police] complaints informally and 17 complaints through investigation.

Forty-one complaints were assessed and closed for a variety of reasons including a request to withdraw the complaint, a lack of jurisdiction over the complaint or abandonment of the complaint,” the report reads.

Overall, 92 of the 230 cases received across all categories in 2018 were carried over to the new year.

In addition to investigation of police complaints, the office is tasked with monitoring compliance with the Freedom of Information Law, investigating complaints of government maladministration, handling whistleblower cases and regulating the Data Protection Law.

Of the 229 inquiries received by the ombudsman in 2018, 87 inquiries (38%) related to freedom of information, 65 (28%) related to data protection and 58 (25%) related to maladministration.

Regarding freedom of information, the report said the ombudsman received 23 new appeals in 2018, resolved 20 and prepared seven for hearings. Four decisions regarding freedom of information were made in 2018 and 15 cases were carried over to 2019.

“The case studies in this report serve as a reminder of the impact our work can have on people’s lives,” said Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston in a press release.

“My role is not to police politicians, or overturn their political decisions … but to ensure decisions made by civil servants, and in some instances, private sector employees, are fair, reasonable and in compliance with applicable law and policy.”

Hermiston also highlighted plans for 2020, including investigations into systemic issues in the Cayman Islands.

“As part of the creation of our office, we selected and implemented new case management software, created a new website, planned new office space and hired subject-matter experts,” reads a message from Hermiston in the annual report.

“We will continue to establish multi-faceted investigative teams and to advance the skills and competencies of our staff in order to meet the dynamic challenges of this office with its … areas of responsibility.”