Bullying cop faces law suit

| 17/04/2013

frank owens1.JPG(CNS): A young police constable has taken legal action against a senior police officer as a result of more than two years of bullying and two direct assaults. Due to the failure of Police Commissioner David Baines, the internal police complaints procedures and the director of public prosecutions (DPP) to take action, despite finding that an assault had occurred, PC Cardiff Robinson is suing Chief Inspector Frank Owens (left) as well as Baines for financial damages and a declaration that the police complaints procedure is bias. The suit states that the accusations of assaults and bullying by Owens are substantiated by witnesses as well as the DPP’s findings and supported by other complaints made about the senior officer.

In his legal claim Robinson states that he has been bullied by Owens for over two years and also records two specific assaults that took place in front of witnesses, including one where the senior officer threw a large log book at the young PC’s head, as well as a verbal and very intimidating attack on the streets of George Town.

Although the junior officer filed complaints with the deputy commissioner and the Police Complaints Unit, nothing has been done about the issues. DPP Cheryll Richards found that there was evidence that Owens had committed common assault on Robinson, which is a criminal charge, but said it was not in the public interest to prosecute and advised the commissioner to deal with the incident internally. Following this ruling the young officer started on the road of civil action, resulting in the writ filed on 10 April.

As well as detailing the experiences of Robinson at the hands of what the suit implies is a very aggressive senior officer, the claim also details a catalogue of issues relating to the Professional Standards Unit, the internal department within the RCIPS that investigates complaints about the police, both from the public and RCIPS officers and staff. The unit has received considerable criticism from a number of quarters and Robinson points to findings by the Police Association.

“The Police Association, which represents the interests of serving officers up to the rank of Superintendent, has publicly criticized the PSU, pointing out that, regardless of the fact that an investigation has commenced by the PSU, which is often not independently conducted, the commissioner alone gets to decide whether an officer, especially a senior officer, is properly and independently investigated by the PSU, let alone punished for wrongdoing,” the statement of claim notes.

The document records that a number of complaints have been logged from officers as a result of incidents involving Owens and what is alleged to be his aggressive approach with younger or junior officers. Regardless of the complaints, including that of PC Robinson, as well as the findings of the DPP, no action has ever been taken against the senior officer. In addition, Robinson’s request to see the file relating to the findings of the DPP in connection with the assault has also been denied.

According to the suit, the most recent incident which Robinson complains about was the second assault on him at the hands of Owen, in addition to the general bullying, threats of dismissal and aggressive approach. The assault occurred in central George Town on 15 February last year, when Owens was on patrol in the capital during a high visibility policing operation in the face of rising crime.

Owens and Robinson got into a dispute about the Edward Street branch of Cayman National Bank, which Owens denied existed but was the branch where Robinson, as per his duties, had been making checks. When Owens, who is in charge of the capital’s police force, was faced with his error he became extremely angry and in “one swift movement, turned and quickly made two aggressive steps towards [PC Robinson] with his head pushed in towards his face an inch away from his nose with his finger also pointing into his face”, as he screamed at the officer, “Don’t try me, don’t try me Cardiff!” forcing the young PC to move his head to avoid spit from the senior cop's mouth hitting him in the face, " the claim states.

The incident was observed by several witnesses, all of whom say they are willing to testify at trial.

Although Robinson complained to the deputy commissioner and to the PSU more than eight months ago, nothing has happened. The DPP determined several months after the incident that it amounted to common assault but said it was not in the public interest to prosecute Owens and recommended an internal disciplinary process which, if it has taken place, has resulted in no disciplinary action.

The commissioner also publicly denied that the incident was an assault during a committee hearing at the Legislative Assembly and, as such, Robinson believes that his complaint has already been prejudiced. With no independent police complaints commission, despite local law makingprovision for it, Robinson claims there is no way he can get a fair hearing and, as a result of the breach of his human rights, he has taken direct legal action in the Grand Court.

Robinson states that he is afraid to be alone with Owens for fear he will trump up some charge to get him in trouble and has suffered severe anxiety as a result of the altercations with the senior officer. Robinson has sought counselling and was forced to take some leave because of the mounting trauma, the culmination of bullying inflicted on the young officer, who is understood to have an unblemished record and has been commended by the commissioner himself.  

The suit comes at a time when there are a number of internal issues in the RCIPS, including allegations about serving officers, other disputes and alleged assaults between the ranks and a number of question marks about morale. It was also filed at the same time as an application for judicial review by an officer who had served for 26 years and was dismissed without explanation four years before his mandatory retirement.

Related articles on CNS:

Senior cop under investigation

Senior cop stripped to PC

Sacked cop seeks court help get his job back

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