No acceptable level of corruption

| 11/08/2008

The public has been offering information about alleged irregularities within the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) since the announcement about the independent investigation into police corruption was first made last March. Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger said the very next day he started to get phone calls raising concerns about corruption and other integrity issues.

A large number of people have contacted him, many from within the police itself, and continue to do so, Bridger told people at the first public meeting about the investigation, held on Friday afternoon, 8 August, on Cayman Brac at the Seamen’s and Veterans’ Centre. Five separate people had called him that day, he said, emphasising that he would never indicate who or about what. Now, he is assessing the intelligence and will look at each allegation.

When people do have the courage to come forward, they must be supported all the way, even possibly to court. “If they’ve shown courage then we must help them through the process.”

However, he continued, “If I went home tomorrow, I will not have made a lot of difference. This is not just about my team arresting individuals and then going away.” One thing that has been learned from similar processes in the UK and in Northern Ireland is that you must leave a better police service for the future, Bridger noted.

Dealing with corruption in London’s Metropolitan Police Service, he said some officers went to jail, “but what we didn’t do was look carefully at the preventative side.” On the other hand, it is not possible to start with prevention without dealing with the corruption first, and he was satisfied that the process was on the correct path, he said.

In answer to a question from a member of the public about whether, given the response, there would be a permanent office set up to investigate the police, Bridger said that there had been preliminary discussions within government.

In the UK, an Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has its own officers and its own lawyers, he explained. Bridger also has experience in the Police Ombudsman’s Office in Northern Ireland, where he said they investigated everything from incivility right up to murder.

“The police have a unique culture. When you’re working with people day and night and share experiences, and you see colleagues doing something they shouldn’t, it’s really hard to report it.”

Answering a question about the difficulties of policing in a small community, even for an independent department, Bridger again drew on his experience in Northern Ireland  as precedent. There was more to be done regarding the leadership in the RCIPS to establish the ethics and values, and what is acceptable. “If we get the organisation functioning properly, there will not be so many complaints,” he said.

“There is no acceptable level of corruption,” Bridger told CNS after the meeting. He asked if, hypothetically, a police officer helped a person who was legitimately put under arrest for such crimes as gambling or drinking and driving, where would it stop? When would the crimes become too serious and who would make that decision?

“It leads to confusion and there must be clarity. Police officers swear an oath to uphold the law and the community must have expectations that they will uphold it without fear or favour. The law is the law,” he said.

Anyone who has information related to any of the enquiries can call Senior Investigating Officer Martin Bridger on 927 2981.

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