Cop accuses senior officer of abuse

| 11/08/2016 | 0 Comments
Cayman News Service

PC Cardiff Robinson (right) on police duty

(CNS): More than five years after PC Cardiff Robinson first accused a senior police officer of assaulting him, the young officer described in court Thursday the targeted abuse and bullying he suffered at the hands Chief Inspector Frank Owens. Giving evidence to support a civil claim he filed against Owens, Robinson related two incidents in which he described specific assaults. But in emotional testimony, he spoke about constant humiliation and victimisation by CI Owens while he was a neighbourhood officer in the capital and Owens was in charge of George Town Police Station.

Robinson, who has been with the RCIPS since 2008, told the court he was first assaulted by Owens the very first time he had interacted with him, soon after the senior officer was given the job of heading up the country’s main police station.

In June 2011 the PC said he was asked by CI Owens to inspect a police vehicle in front of the GTPS. Robinson said that, in the presence of a third officer, Owens instructed him to get the police log book from the car and accused him of not updating it. While Robinson tried to explain that the shortage of cars at the time meant that it was being used by several officers, Owens aggressively threw the book in Robinson’s face.

Cayman News Service

Chief Inspector Frank Owens

“That was my first encounter with him,” Robinson said. “He was very aggressive … his tone was loud and there were pedestrians on the road … I felt very ashamed, humiliated and discriminated against in the way he treated me in front of my colleague, PC Peart.”

Robinson was then ordered to go to Owens’ office, where the PC said, “he sat in his chair, leaned back and beat his chest and said he was the boss around here”.

Owens told him that he was high on his “radar”, “but he would not tell me what he meant by that. I left the office feeling humiliated, as I had never been treated that way,” Robinson said, as he claimed to have an unblemished record.

Shocked and confused, he said he spoke with Deputy Commissioner Anthony Ennis, who told him he would try to deal with it. “I asked him to find out what the problem was and where it came from,” Robinson told the court. He said he never received any feedback but he continued to be victimised and bullied by Owens.

The next assault was several months later in February 2012. In the wake of a number of robberies and rising crime in the capital, Robinson was part of a visible foot patrol. While he was checking in at the Cayman National Bank by the courts, he heard Owens on the open radio asking for officers on patrol to come to him. Robinson said he was the first to respond, stating that he was at CNB and then headed towards Owens, who was on the corner of Cardinal Avenue.

Robinson said that, as he approached, Owens was talking on his phone, so he waited until he finished the call. Then, in a loud and aggressive tone Owens began demanding to know where he had come from and he told him again he had been at CNB, Robinson said. But the senior officer refused to accept that there was a branch of CNB there.

“I tried to show him but he kept saying there was no bank in a loud and aggressive manner, as people were passing and looking what was happening,” Robinson recalled, as he explained how he offered to show the senior officer. They set off towards the bank and as they approached the court, Robinson was able to point to the CNB branch and said that if Owens did not believe he had been there on patrol, they could go talk with the security guard. But, Robinson said, Owens became loud and aggressive, telling the young officer, “Don’t try me,” as he pointed at Robinson.

“He was so close to me, his spit was coming in my face. He was very, very aggressive and I became fearful of him,” Robinson said, adding that he believed Owens might have hit him. But he had pointed out to his senior officer that they were in uniform and people were looking and laughing.

“When he catch himself, he said to me, go do some foot patrol and I walked off, but I was so ashamed,” he told the court.

The incident was witnessed by several people who gave statements. One came from a local food vendor, who gave evidence in court Thursday and said he couldn’t ever forget the event as it was “so unusual”.

He recalled delivering the food to the service cabana when he heard two people arguing. As he looked up he saw a white and a black police officer, neither of whom he knew. He heard the black officer trying to explain there was a bank but the white officer “was having none of it”, as he described Owens as getting up in “the guys face and shouting at him”, referring to Robinson.

He said it was around lunchtime and there were a lot people, including tourists, walking about. “It was upsetting,” the witness stated. The food vendor said that because the white officer was so close in the young black officer’s face, he had yelled to Robinson several times that he should spit back.

In addition to the two assaults, Robinson told the court that he was constantly abused and bullied by Owens without obvious cause and after that incident he decided to make a formal complaint. He said no one in the RCIPS was helping him, so he decided to report the assault.

Chief Superintendent Kurt Walton was charged with the investigation and some five months later Robinson was informed that, even though an assault had taken place, the director of public prosecutions did not wish to proceed with the matter because it was not in the public interest.

The DPP found that it would look bad in the public domain to have a senior officer and a junior officer pitted against each other and recommend an internal enquiry. The court heard that the Professional Standards Unit began an investigation but that was stalled when Robinson decided to take a private legal action.

After applying for a job with operational support some months after the assault, Robinson was transferred. But in his evidence Robinson depicted a very difficult time working under Owens. The PC said he was a hard-working officer who had been commended and had an unblemished record.

Despite the abuse he suffered at the hands of Owens, he never disrespected him. However, Robinson recalled that Owens’ behaviour was overbearing at times and there was a lot of bullying incidents. He said the intimidation was constant and he never understood the reason for the bad treatment.

Robinson said the abuse was way beyond a senior officer giving orders to a junior and caused him personal anguish and sleepless nights.

“I was questioning myself about what I had done wrong and what I was I doing and how do I handle this … It was overbearing,” he said. “I felt abused, humiliated, discriminated against and fearful of Owens.”

Feeling that no matter how much he complained the RCIPS was not doing anything, he decided to take legal action, he said.

Owens has denied the allegations. He has rejected that the first incident regarding the log book ever happened, although Officer Peart, who was a witness to the event, has made a statement about it. The senior officer has also denied that the incident in George Town amounted to an assault, claiming he was merely admonishing an insubordinate junior officer.

The case continues. Check CNS tomorrow for Owens’ response.

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