Truth and reconciliation

| 27/08/2010

As the RCIPS comes towards the end of its community road show a number of persistent issues have been raised by the Caymanian public at the meetings. One of them is the lack of trust the people have in the RCIPS as a result of a catalogue of different complaints that have never been resolved.

Over the years in my role as a reporter in the Cayman Islands I have been to many different community police meetings and have heard numerous stories, some shocking, some upsetting and some plain stupid, about the experiences people have had with the RCIPS. The common dominator is always that they were never addressed.

During his ‘meet the people experience’ Baines cannot have failed to see that a disproportionate amount of often law abiding people have a significant number of complaints for such a small community.

And because of the failure of anyone in the RCIPS to ever apologise, admit the mistake or offer any kind of explanation or resolution, the bad experiences have built up into an almost community-wide distrust of the entire service.

You don’t have to go far in Cayman before you find someone with a genuine gripe about their experience with the police and who has never had any closure on the issue. From the widespread belief that the police have exposed them when they have given information about a crime to poor customer service at the police station, serious allegations regarding incompetency, downright dishonesty and just plain discourtesy are not uncommon.

Police are, of course, only human so there will always be dishonest, discourteous and even stupid officers as there are people with those traits in the wider community – it’s life – but what has happened in Cayman is that there have been times when, although we have had all three among the rank and file and even management of the police service, no one has ever wanted to admit it.

Over the years the officers responsible for some of the complaints have disappeared. They have been removed quietly from their jobs, in some cases shipped off island, some have even gone to jail, but what has happened in many instances is that the complaints relating to these officers have never been acknowledged, let alone addressed.

Accusations as serious as sexual harassment, false arrests, perjury, revealing to a suspect the identity of who called the police on them, failing to take statements from key witness, sweeping investigations under the carpet, messing up investigations, losing evidence, losing statements – the list goes on, but what does not go on is the apologies.

Baines has talked a lot recently about his goal to stabilise and professionalise the RCIPS and ensure these things do not happen in the future but what he has not yet said is how he is going to address what has happened in the past.

While the marl road suggests officers have been sacked or have resigned as a result of these possible complaints, no closure has been offered to those who may have suffered at the hands of these incompetent, discourteous or downright dishonest officers that are now long gone.

In order to bring some resolution perhaps the RCIPS should establish its own truth and reconciliation commission. By letting those who have had bad experiences with the police tell their story publicly and have the police say what has happened to the officers in question, it may bring closure and help to rebuild trust. If they are no longer serving then the victims can be told the full story of the officer’s removal and perhaps have some explanation as to why their complaint was never addressed. If they are still serving then they can answer the complaints themselves.

Many of the stories and complaints that I have heard over the years require nothing more than a simple apology and an admission that the officer or service was wrong. Once the victims feel that their complaint has been properly aired and taken seriously, they can begin to rebuild the trust. And that trust is key to the RCIPS going forward as the loss of trust remains a major stumbling block for the RCIPS when it comes to solving crime.

Of course, not all the complaints are genuine and someone complaining that an officer was rude to them when they gave them a speeding ticket is hardly grounds for real truth and reconciliation. However,the hard truth is that there are far too many genuine complaints that have never been addressed that need to be.

So many stories and complaints have been covered up and swept under the carpet and, as a result, they continue to fester in the wider community, aggravating the existing gap between police and public at a time when crime is increasingly frequent and increasingly violent.

The tendency inherent in most law enforcement agencies to close ranks and cover up their collective shortcomings has made things worse in Cayman as it is such a small community and the bad news stories travel quickly.

While openness and transparency and admitting you are wrong are not always easy for authorities, if Baines is serious about professionalising and stabilising the RCIPS, it’s time for the service to swallow its proverbial pride and say it is sorry. It may well be worth it in the end.

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  1. Watchmiwatchu says:

     Wendy, here’s the path to better community/police relations: the police were on the junction of Birch Tree Hill Road and Capt. Joe & Osbert Road last weekend – 7 cars and 20 officers. When they were approached by members of the community to find out what was going on, the residents were told that "nothing was going on". 7 cars, 20 officers. Birch Tree Hill Road. "Nothing going on". Liar or stupid? Or a stupid liar who didn’t realise the damage that was being done to police/community relations? In an area where the police can’t get much assistance anyway, they would jeopardize any standing that they have left by telling a blatant lie. Followed by another: expired vehicle licence checks. With a vehicle being searched even into its car trunk. For an expired licence. And then one officer insisted that an enquiring resident would have to leave from the area for asking the question, "what’s going on?".

    Count me out on confidence. And probably everyone else who is aware of this. If we can’t get the truth that an investigation is going on when it is, how can we have faith that it is being investigated properly and fairly. Especially in light of the fact that at the second lie, they were searching in a car trunk when they were supposed to be looking on the windshield for a sticker. So which was the lie: the licence or the search? Too much for me to handle.

  2. Anonymous says:

    To find, not all of , the answers to the problems within the RCIPS one has to go back into the history of the service.  It’s only then that one can really understand why the Service is where it’s at  today and Mr. Baines,  no matter how hard he tries, no matter what he does,  no matter what he thinks,  in spite of his alleged commitment,  he’s fighting a losing battle.

    In the nineties,  Politics dictated the course of the RCIPs which led to promotions that divided the what was then the force.  This caused division, prejudice, lack of dedication and commitment, suspicion and above all, corruption within the said force.     One renowned Ch. Supt.,whilst all this was transpiring,  said to me out of real concern and I quote:    " It took me 37yrs to become an Inspector in the Metropolitan police.   Can you explain to me how one can become a Superintendant in the RCIPF in less than twelve years of service?     I could not answer.  He then became prophetic and said,     and I quote:    " Within the next twelve years,    you mark my word,   we will see and feel  the adverse effects of such decisions.   So said so it is.   We are reaping what we sowed ;   sad,sad to say.   He was dead right.     This man has since retired and is the head of a very successful security  company on this Island.

    What is the cure for the problem   (problems) ?     Not Mr. Bains,   not revising laws,   not poligraph test,   not the helicopter,  not more Police officers,  not more money,  not more and better Police cars and equipment,  not CCTV,   The list goes on and on and on to no avail. 

    My answer to the numerous problems happen to be:   (1)   Recruit individuals who possess substantial  local knowledge and that means Caymanians who have

      love,  respect,  care  and understanding for this and the people of this country  and who are willing and are  prepared to sacrifice all for this cause. 

     (2)  Closely monitor all Officers on performance,   no matter the rank,  nationality , on  commitment ,  dedication,  loyalty,  and above all,  corruption.    Lets face it,    A Law Enforcement officer is always vulnerable and subject  to corruption especially in this small community.  Only the strong survive.   How many are strong in these troubled times?   I know,;;;;; not many because it’.s a case of survival for all,  especially the Caymanians within the service.

    (3)  Be prepared to dismiss any who is in breach of all the above even the commissioner.



  3. Anonymous says:

      Wake up Grand Cayman force you aren’t present in the community in a positive way therefore cannot collectively earn respect or trust from the citizens…. Try hiring more Caymanians or at least expats that aren’t from a crime and corruption ridden culture… sorry closest neighbour to the south, but it is the truth….time to set the bar a little higher for new RCIP employees. Sometimes you get what you pay for!

  4. nauticalone says:

    Too many fool fool police in Cayman…period!…and their attitude from the top down is deny, deny, deny…

    All this while blaming the very people whose taxes (fees) pay them, and whom they (the police) are supposed to protect.

    But of course the examples they follow are from the very top echelons of society…our esteemed politicians (and now some of our politicians/clergy).

    Pure hipocrisy… tied up in loyalty too…and supported by the many who no longer think for themselves.

    • Maverick says:

      Wendy, as ever, a fantastic and insightful piece, but you do miss one important point. I will keep this as bland as I can to allow you to publish it, but the truth WILL out. I apologise this is lengthy, but I believe it makes some important points.

      You are absolutely correct, as a still-serving officer of the RCIP (I don’t think it deserves the ‘S’) I can tell you that you have missed one important point that is not even indirectly mentioned in your piece.

      One tiny department is responsible for the issue you raise, and that is the ‘Complaints and Discipline’ department. My personal experience is of a generally ineffective, dishonest, lazy, racist and xenophobic group of ‘officers’ that could not investigate their way out of a wet paper bag. It is ultimately responsible to disgraced (but still on full-pay) Caymanian Rudolf Dixon. Yes, folks, that’s correct, Dixon is, or was, ultimately in charge of the professional standards within the RCIP.

      This department, in my experience, is lazy and unproductive. There is one vital point to be noted here, and that is that by leaving complaints ‘open’ on an officer’s discipline file, sometimes for many months, or even years, then the ‘Complaints and Discipline’ department simply has to say, in the case of an expatriate officer on work permit seeking renewal, ‘this officer has outstanding complaints against him/her’ thus effectively preventing renewal, and on the say so of (usually) one person, despite other possible supervisor recommendations, changing the course of that officers’ life and career, with officers leaving the service with unresolved complaints, effecting any further employment.

      Don’t get me wrong, genuine complaints have to be addressed, but not all complaints are genuine, and given the level of contempt for the RCIP, it may be easy for a ‘customer’ to make a spurious complaint.

      Addressing complaints isn’t just about punishment, it is about reparation, education, reinforcing or repairing/creating trust. Good police officers should have nothing to fear from the public, or from having complaints properly investigated. In Cayman, they must fear certain parts of their own organisation. Even the best police officers can make mistakes, I know I have (not implying I’m the best), but one has to have the backbone to admit that, and move on.

      One major problem is that if a particular officer is unpopular with the Complaints Department in Cayman, for instance if that officer has criticised that department in any way, then that same department will do nothing to protect that officer from spurious complaints. They have been allowed to become ‘judge and jury’ in the same way many methods perpetuate in Cayman, just because ‘it’s different here, that’s how we do it.’ I say B.S! Cayman exists as a multicultural society in the 21st century with the rest of the world, so get with the program Cayman!

      Baines, if you seek to improve the service to the people you serve, you must remove the rot within the RCIP, and the Complaints department is at the very core of that. When you arrived here you said, "We’ve been policing for 150 years, we know what we’re doing." Hmm, I challenge you Baines, where’s your evidence?

      Even Baines eating humble pie in the media is not enough, a massive change has to take place in the RCIP to regain the public trust, and it has to be an holistic approach, not just some form of ‘fly swatting’ of individual problems.

      In order for Cayman to have pride in it’s Police, for it to become a Police ‘Service’, first the Police has to have pride in itself.

  5. noname says:

    Yes indeed, I must commend you Ms Ledger and it has clearly outlined the real problems and not the symptoms, which we frequently try to address too many times. I see Mr. Baines is having to shoulder and take responsibility for trying to fix or remedy a very old and persistent problem "corruption" which undermines political, social and economic stability it threatens security and damages trust and public confidence in systems which affects peoples daily lives although corruption frequently occurs at local and national levels its consequences are global ,its hidden cost are immense. This for the umpteen time we keep getting back to this and it is bigger than  Mr.Baines  RCIPS situation. It needs to be addressed at a national level.The masterminds suggesting political meddling again in which the UK government foolishly allowed the last time , which by the way is why we are in this current mess, because it allowed a dangerously corrupt element to take control of leadership positions. Who by the way are cunningly doing what they have always done lay the blame at other peoples feet which now happens to be Commissioner David Baines.They are once again trying very hard to corral him into narrow venues or areas and crime related issues thereby allowing him to be isolated and controlled. This will allow two things to happen he will either leave or get with the program. How many times have we seen this occur the same forces driving him to recruit overseas are the same ones complaining about the recruitment. Aaaaaah Mr Baines the same old game and the mental trick of frustration. You will only become a good commissioner when you comply with the Coliseum and their wicked games. You inherited the problems you didn’t create them. To move head you will have to remove them and from what i have heard you doing a good job. You still have a very long and treacherous road ahead and the main problems and most difficult ones lie ahead. We hear and see the complaints by those who claimed they have been wronged, what about the innocent persons lives and careers their actions have damaged or destroyed who have contributed to this island. People like Mr. Derek Haines Shaun Ebanks and Anthony Ennis other excellent officers who will compensated them.

  6. Anonymous says:
    "Banes has talked a lot recently about his goal to stabilise and professionalise the RCIPS and ensure these things do not happen in the future but what he has not yet said is how he is going to address what has happened in the past."
    And here we go! I will start with this. First off I do not think he has the first clue on where he is or what time period we are living in.  The road show is all wonderful, to appear to involve the community and hear the problems they are having with crime and the Police. But you may as well be talking to a deaf mute as the agenda has already been set. 
    The Commissioner has a record, for the short time he has been here for paying lip-service and re-acting to strong emotion of the community, to giving quick knee-jerking reactions in order to pacify an uproar due to his incompetent leadership. Road blocks that are promised for long periods of time, but are only implemented on the moment as he cannot maintain that. They are only a big show and useless anyway and scare the common citizen and not the criminals. I ask the esteemed Inspector Dr. White that if criminals are smart enough not to enter a place that is well lit as he would like everywhere to be, would a criminal in most cases not be smart enough to have contraband in a car when knowing the Police are waiting at check-points? This may work for drunk drivers at best?  Armed Police – there is a big laugh. How many are on duty at one time? He has admitted that there are roughly 4 on a shift. That is a joke. Then, with the same plan as his predecessors he claims that the RCIP is destabilized and he recognizes this and he will fix it – it is with this very thinking that has gotten them to this point. Every last one of these Commissioners has imported UK officers to make up some so called short fall in the Service, only to never really see a lasting reduction in crime. This is stupid and a mistake that keeps getting repeated over and over again. A person with a bordering IQ could recognize this – it is funny that no one in the RCIP has, as Mr. Baines has stated a lot are bordering the IQ scale and not on the plus side. He agrees with the community, only to take the heat off of his incompetence. If  he agrees with almost everything, where can the people go with it? They leave feeling they have made a change and life goes on. He is no fool in that regards, but takes this community for fools.
    The RCIP had lots of talent over the years, many who retired from the "Force". Mr. Baines projects that they got by, but needed to be improved and brought into the 21st century of Police work. I have news for him, the RCIP was a fine service until people with the ideas of the like started implementing them, forcing Caymanians, and expats with great skill out, only to be replaced by UK Officers that are not performing to a standard that can keep crime at an acceptable level, and having a force that is Jamaican for a large percentage, without proper tests and back-ground checks. It is him and his recent predecessors that have done this. Then they come here only to "show us how it is done". What they are doing  is a fine job at showing us how to make this island a nightmare to live in. 
    Do not get me wrong, there were and are some fine people amongst the ranks in the RCIP from Jamaica and the UK, but the overall quality of Officer is not what it use to be, whether it be a lack or intelligence or a lack of work ethic……
    The British came to these Islands a few years ago, only to cost the CI Government a small fortune that they still do not know the total on as it is on-going. Is the memory of most people too short to remember the Met Police singing a similar tune of making the RCIP  a better force etc only to leave us embarrassed before the world? Is there no boundaries to the stupidity, or arrogance? The mistakes that are being made are not going to be rectified by a simple I am sorry lets move on – that did not work for the Honorable Judge Henderson. That was a mighty big sorry he got and in my opinion was too small for what they did to him. They I predict may be making some more big I am sorry checks to people.
    The only road show I would like to attend is the one that takes all of these ideas and policies on an airplane out of this country. I for one, and as most people are tired of the lip-service that is being paid to crime and the poor performance of the RCIP. People need to be held accountable, starting with the people that hired people that can be out-witted by a 6 year old. Then the people that cannot pass a basic writing test, need to go, but I think  if this happens, the Force will be down to about 40 Officers and we will see a true understaffed organization. I would bet though, that crime would not be much worse if it came to that.
    What I would like to know is how can the community have any confidence in a Police Force, sorry Service that is arresting people that are turned free, secure very few lasting convictions, then blame the community for not helping? Their leader who claims that a good portion of the Force is incompetent and a danger to themselves and the public if armed? What kind of Police Department is this I ask? When will this madness stop? Certainly not when more UK Police arrive, or sending ours to get experience on crime tactics in the UK. Look at their crime. They have neighborhoods, because of their policies, the crime has gotten so bad that they have to send heavily armed specially trained Officers as it is not safe for a regular constable, armed or not to enter. People we are heading down the same road. 
    The RCIP is the Enforcement branch of the CI government. As it stands, the CI Government is a cripple in regards to Enforcement. The Police are a pegged leg. It is like entering a race with one fake leg. I commend people that do this, it is a great feeling to say you were there, but you have no chance of winning. I would say the same for the RCIP. They stand very little chance at success with the current plans. And when they fail, it under minds the whole country.
    The local Government has no real say in the Police, but yet the foot the bill. This is not right and with the present performance of this body of dead wood as Baines puts it, it is money wasted that we do not have. I predict that this whole road show was a waste of time and the only thing that may come of it, is a bunch of sweating Constables as the A/C units will be removed. Lets see performance increase when that happens!!!
    • The Crown says:

      I feel you. You make some true points. But by saying all of that you didn’t browse even slightly on the causes of crime or the now escalation of it. Which gives a unmistakable feeling that your pro-enforcement. Which the world over has proven that to be a false positive. You & i feel there’s lots of crime now,wait until it has fully soaked in that politicians have shaped & tailored & shaped so much that Caymanians individually & on a whole have been projected successfully as a step child in their own country.Think about that.

    • Ray Kroc says:

      Check  the officers who are brought in from the UK to reinforce the uniform officers on the street, after a short time they disappear from the streets into specialist posts. So won’t be seen walking the beat in areas such as Scranton, Rock Hole, or Watlers Road (Dog City) or Windsor Park or mobile in the marked cars where the a/c units will soon to  be removed

  7. Anonymous says:

    One of the issues that might be addressed is the delay in processing my complaints against the two officers in charge of Operation Tempura Martin Bridger and Richard Coy.

    Last I heard from the RCIPS was the end of November last year when the officer running the PSU was replaced.

    It’s the same with my outstanding expenses, issues relating to this remain unresolved nearly a year after a secret meeting decided not to authorise payment and refused to supply me with the full grounds for their decision. I made an FoI request for the minutes of the meeting and a request for the decision in writing – both were ignored.

    Ironically, while my submissions have been stonewalled a senior civil servant has been giving their full backing to complaints made by Bridger against the Daily Mail in the UK.

    This kind of double standard does nothing to enhance public confidence in the police.

  8. Anonymous says:

    A friend and I were discussing the RCIPs today and both of us were baffled at the inadequate policing in such a small community. Grand Cayman has the population of barely 60-70,000 with 300+ police and crime remains out of control.

    The lay out of the island lends itself to managing people yet police leadership for a decade or more has been ineffective.

    We decided that many local people don’t care as long as crime doesn’t touch them personally.  As long as the bulk of crime remains in certain locations the police will keep a hands off and then go in and clean up the mess.

    The police not knowing the drug dealers or stolen goods fences in the country seems hard to believe.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Well written piece Wendy, but unfortunately your words are lost on the people that could make a difference. I have personally known the RCIPS to be very apologetic in their failed dealings with the public and then in the next go round the same public is subjected to the same failings again [they can’t even learn from their own mistakes].The RCIPS is a failed entity and Commissioner Baines out of his own mouth has written their epitaph {illiterate, unable to follow instructions ,can’t  follow evidence chain,} in admitting their short comings he only makes more obvious his own. Unfortunately we are left to live with rising and violent crime. And what the Commissioner is trying to do is turn people that weren’t qualified to be police officers in the first place into real police officers after the fact.

    • are you serious? says:

      He don’t include the officers from the UK in the "dead wood". He means the rest of the RCIP.