Cops fail exams but papers remain under wraps

| 26/07/2011

(CNS): The country’s information commissioner has upheld a decision by the police not to release the RCIPS promotion exam papers as she said it could undermine the credibility of the promotion processes and in turn the entire police force. The request to see the papers was made by an officer who had taken this year’s exam, which had changed format and which he and his colleagues had said was unfair. Although Jennifer Dilbert said some of the accusations by the applicant about the fairness of the process were outside her remit she determined that the police had a right to define and raise the standards if they wanted when it came to promoting staff.

“There is a significant public interest in allowing a public authority, particularly a police service, a reasonable amount of liberty to define and, if necessary, raise the standards against which it measures candidates for promotion, and to formulate its examination questions accordingly,” she said in her fourteenth decision.

Dilbert also noted that the RCIPS management had been willing to accommodate the needs of the applicants while defending the exam questions and process. Prior to commencing the FOI process, the public authority offered to allow the applicant to view the exams, but would not allow them to remove copies from their offices.

Although Dilbert found that the RCIPS had acted within the law by keeping the exam papers and answers under wraps, once again the information boss criticised the procedures followed by the RCIPS during the application.

Dilbert revealed that the chief officer took nearly two months to complete the Internal Review despite the law providing only 30 calendar days with no provision for extending the time period. On top of that the CO caused more delays by remaining unresponsive to the communications of the ICO during the mediation process.

“As late as one day before the Notice of Hearing was sent out, nearly three months after the appeal to the ICO was made, and more than seven months after the request was originally received by the RCIPS, the Chief Officer retracted the previous Internal Review decision, and reformulated his conclusions based on a new exemption,” she said.

While the retraction of a previous position itself was not a problem, as Dilbert explained that it is a legitimate outcome of mediation, delaying an internal review denies an applicant’s right to access government records. She also criticized the RCIPS FOI process as she said it became apparent that people inside the service were not communicating with each other

With so many officers failing this year’s exam, the records request was made to try and determine if the paper was unfair and the reason for the low pass levels. The applicant had also made complaints about the exam before making the FOI. It is understood that officers who took the exam complained about the practice of candidates having to write their names on their answer sheets, which allowed the examiner to know the identity of the officer at the time of marking, as well as the appropriateness of the questions, both in terms of composition and content. In addition, the room where the exam was held and the time allocated was said to be inadequate. All of this reportedly led to a very high rate of failure, though the rate was not revealed.

The applicant indicated that it is common in academic circles for past papers of exams to be made available to everyone, and concern was raised that officers who sit the exam for a second time would be at an unfair advantage over those sitting for the first time.

The RCIPS had claimed, however, that disclosing the papers, which included questions that would be used again, meant that an officer who does not actually possess the required knowledge of the laws, policies, procedures, and practices of the rank could pass the exam, with obvious ramifications.

Dilbert agreed and said the release could prejudice the conduct of the police because it could undermine the RCIPS’ ability to conduct exams and grant promotions according to standards deemed desirable by senior management and the Training Unit.

The commissioner noted that the applicant’s unwillingness to accept the offer made by the RCIPS to allow all of the failed candidates to view their own exam paper with the answers marked also undermined the application but said the RCIPS should release questions and answers when they are removed from the paper.

Dilbert further recommended that the allegations of unfair practices and maladministration made by the applicant might be appropriate for the Complaints Commissioner to address.

Category: FOI

Comments (19)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The police chief must be keeping company with chief fire officer  and his deputies if you not family or did wrong or were demoted you dont get promoted in the fire service check cayman Brac fire service.

  2. Anonymous says:

    My withholding the info sought ,many suspicions are raised. I guess the FOI is not applicable when trying to expose shortfalls in some government departments

  3. Anonymous says:

    Why hasn,t the commissioner recognized the other persons who passed their examination last year or early this year.  A few persons passed, and I believe it could have been for or five,b but to date have not been given the pay or the stripe.  Will the Commissioner tell the public why he is foot dragging on that.

    • Anonymous says:

      Check with the UK Police Review magazine and you will see examination questions and answers included.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Well then they don’t deserve them new cars.

  5. Castor says:

    And so should the exam results remain confidential. Period! One would like to think there is  integrity at al levels of management. If there isn't the police service is in a woeful state.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Who cares about the exams? The RCIP are the worst offenders for promoting Caymanians.  It may come as a surprise to many that even if officers pass their exams most don't get promoted, the RCIP has excellent Caymanian officers with a number of years experience in various departments sitting there wasting their talents and instead of promoting them they keep promotingthe expat officers or the friends of the higher ups. The RCIP keeps telling most of the officers who pass that "there are currently no vacancies for promotion", or "we don't have anything in the budget for promotions".   But yet a recent FOI request showed that while these Caymanian officers were being told that there are no promotions and no money, in fact there were a whole lot of promotions and salary increases going on behind the scenes.  Will be interesting to see what happens when the human rights legislation comes into play….

    • Anonymous says:

      Hmmmmm. I agree there are some excellent Caymanian Officers but there are also some very poor ones. How would you feel about dealing with those? As for the Human Rights reference how will Cayman deal with the outlawing of discrimination? The ratio of workers rule would certainly come under scrutiny and the best person for the job would probably cause some considerable upset. Then you have the taxing, or lack of it when purchasing property, taking fish when stood on the shore etc. The Board of Commerce already showed its hand with regard to equality. I look forward to the answers to these sensitive issues.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Actually it is good to see the RCIP are attempting to raise the standards in respect to Promotions. This is in itself a good thing.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Doesn't this whole fiasco just raise more questions about the basic educational requirements for new recruits and the standard of on-going, or remedial, training offered to them by the RCIPS once they are appointed?

    Old joke – why do the police go round in threes? To try to make sure there is one who can read, one who can write and one who can add up.


  9. Slowpoke says:

    Setting an exam is quite easy.  Writing a valid and reliable exam, that will be used for hiring and promotion purposes, is very hard. 

    If the exam has in fact been validated and the RCIPS has simply raised the cutoff score, because they found that too many unqualified individuals were passing, fair enough.

    On the other hand, if there are real concerns about its "fairness", why not have it evaluated by individuals with training in test validation, such as educational specialists or psychologists?

    • Anonymous says:

      I completely disagree.  It is not like this is the first time an exam would have been written for a promotion.  Standards are plenitul and so are examinations.

      • slowpoke says:

        What do you disagree with?

        I am only asking if this one is, and if not, I think it should be.

  10. Anonymous says:

     If the training is there, officers are freed up to attend and the exam questions reflect what the officers should have learnt in their training then there should be no issue.

    If, howeve, the questions exceed anything that the officers have ever been taught then the fairness should be called to question…or the quality of the training.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don't think basic reading and comprehension skills are included in Police training.  One would need to have conquered this prior this before applying for the job.  Perhaps that's why the exams were so difficult.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Question 1: Where is the gun?

    Response 1: That's such an unfair question. 


    • Anonymous says:

      response 2:  Ask Boris

      • Anymous says:

        Many residents believe that is the gun.  found by the dog.  That gun was in the bushes a very long time but why there.  I am  sure the owner or the person who put it there lives nearby.

  12. Justus! says:

    But their rate of solving crimes is extremely poor. And when they do it gets kicked out of court for shoddy policing so it's safe to say they have no credibility.

    "The country’s information commissioner has upheld a decision by the police not to release the RCIPS promotion exam papers as she said it could undermine the CREDIBILITY of the promotion processes, and in turn the entire police force."