Ombudsman works through 100+ old cop complaints

| 02/10/2018 | 12 Comments
Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston, Cayman News Service

Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston

(CNS): The Office of the Ombudsman is in the process of dealing with more than 120 complaints about the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service that it has received since it was established at the beginning of this year, most of which are historical grievances going back as far as 2010. Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston and her team have been working through these complaints while at the same time establishing a complaint resolution and investigation process, implementing a case management system and recruiting the right people.

As it works its way through the backlog and takes on new complaints, the ombudsman’s office has opened 23 full investigations and has referred more than 50 cases back to the RCIPS .

The office, which began functioning in January, has a separate independent police complaints section that was created under the the Police (Complaints by the Public) Law, 2017. Between 2010 and the beginning of this year there was no formal mechanism to resolve complaints by the public about police misconduct, which led to the backlog.

Answering questions from CNS about how the new unit is taking shape, Hermiston said she was pleased with what has been accomplished so far, but recognises that there is still a lot more work to do.

We have been working diligently to establish a complaint resolution and investigation process,” she said, noting that it has been a challenge to establish the process and recruit the team while battling the backlog and dealing with new complaints. Nevertheless, Hermiston believes that the new modern system of oversight advances the confidence of the public because the police are being externally monitored and held to account. 

This office is completely independent from the RCIPS and government,” she said. “We act fairly, independently and impartially, without taking sides. Decisions and findings of my office are completely impartial. We examine complaints and consider the evidence to determine whether there has been misconduct on the part of a police officer or the service or whether they have acted lawfully and reasonably given the circumstances.” 

Hermiston said that the office’s short-term goals include the addition of an investigator to assist with the backlog of investigations and to provide the office with the capacity to introduce more proactive awareness of the programme.  

I believe we are headed in the right direction and I remain committed to offering a robust independent review process for public complaints concerning the police,” she added.

The ombudsman explained that the public can lodge a written complaint at any police station or directly with the ombudsman within six months of the alleged incident. If a complaint is received at a police station, the RCIPS is required to immediately notify the ombudsman, who will determine the appropriate next steps. 

Encouraging people to make their grievances about the police known as soon as possible, Hermiston said effective complaint resolution requires them to be handled at the earliest opportunity.

“We encourage members of the public to make their complaints directly to the RCIPS at the first instance, where appropriate,” she said. “We also encourage the RCIPS to attempt to resolve those complaints as quickly as possible through an informal resolution process.”

She said that where a case has been resolved informally by the RCIPS, a written record of the resolution is sent to her office for review to ensure the resolution is fair. “If the ombudsman is not satisfied with the informal resolution, the matter will be fully investigated,” Hermiston told CNS.

She said that, unlike the process in the wider civil service for complaints, the public can go directly to her office if they don’t feel comfortable dealing with the police. While her office will normally refer the matter to the RCIPS for investigation under her direction, in some cases it will investigate the complaint. But whoever begins the inquiry into a complaint, the final report goes to the ombudsman for review. 

“The ombudsman writes a final investigation report, which includes a summary of the complaint, a summary of the investigation, analysis of the evidence, procedural or legal decisions, findings of fact, recommendations (if any) and a determination of the complaint,” Hermiston said, adding that some of this information will become public. 

The office has plans for summaries of significant cases to be included as part of the annual reports and it is currently examining the feasibility of posting summaries of resolved complaints and results of investigations on its website. 

A statistical review supplied by the ombudsman for CNS revealed that as of the end of September, 122 complaints have fallen under the new legislation. Most of those complaints are historical, having occurred between January 2010 and December 2017: 

  • 24 complaints were resolved prior to the investigation stage
  • 9 complaints were resolved informally
  • 13 complaints were withdrawn (mostly due to passage of time)
  • 2 complaints were non-jurisdictional
  • 23 investigations have been commenced with 15 of those completed,  9 cwere not supported and 6 were supported, and recommendations made to RCIPS
  • 52 complaints have been assessed by the Office of the Ombudsman and referred to the RCIPS for informal resolution or a full investigation
  • 23 historical complaints from 2010 – 2014 are currently being assessed by the ombudsman.

Complaints may be made at any police station or at the Ombudsman’s office in person between 10am to 3pm at the 3rd Floor, Anderson Square, 64 Shedden Road, George Town, Grand Cayman.

People can call +1 345 946 6283 or email: info@ombudsman.ky

Complaints can also be made online on the office’s website

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Category: Government oversight, Politics

Comments (12)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Doing nothing and saying working very hard. That what is happening in other departments too.

  2. John Doe says:

    On the flip-side is there someone within a Government Department who Police Officers can turn to in regards to problems they are experiencing within the service such as bullying and allegations? It is not always one-sided and there is no Ombudsman or authority for the RCIPS Officers to report to and receive advice. I know in the UK there are unions, organisations and counselors that are there to assist Officers. The Police Association is not independently run and is unable to assist Police Officers without reporting to senior officers so there is no element of confidentiality. HR is not set up to deal with in-house issues so they have no one to turn to.

    Anon

  3. Anonymous says:

    It is in my humble opinion that as citizens of Cayman we should give our Obudswoman some credit in attempting to provide what most countries fail to do and open the doors for open and transparent government – I don’t see much value in digging up historical issues I do however believe that if the office put efforts in solving today’s core social economic issues and to put into place a self-service solution that properly tracks requests and drives open dialog collectively for a better Cayman.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t this all old news? Waste of public funds to keep this office open with such an abysmally poor record of resolving complaints.

  5. Anonymous says:

    And yet they advertise jobs and don’t bother to reply when candidates apply.

    • As is common practice in the workforce, the email confirmation sent to all applicants clearly states that only short listed applicants will be contacted. If an applicant would like further update on their application they are free to email or call our office at 946-6283

  6. Anonymous says:

    Didn’t know they were interested in historical collusion, ineptitude, and non-performance…if so, there must be stacks of “Cayman Classics” to add to their pile.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Ombudswoman. Don’t make me burn my bra up in here.

  8. Anonymous says:

    This office is a farce. Have dealt with them on numerous complaints and they are just as bad as the other entities.

    According to their office it is ok for the police to ignore and refuse to pursue criminal investigations for assault and attempted murder committed by women against men despite having confessions and documented evidence.

    They also will not disclose the evidence from their “investigations” and the public are forced to accept their word as is.

  9. Anonymous says:

    “This office is completely independent from the RCIPS and government,” she said. “We act fairly, independently and impartially, without taking sides.”

    Really? How come my formal request for the office of the Ombudsman to look into the port project was systematically ignored?

    • Anonymous says:

      Good question!?

    • Julie Faulknor-Grant says:

      In responding on behalf of the Office of the Ombudsman to reader 9:37 am, this is to advise that we are not aware of, nor have we received any complaints regarding the ‘port project’. We would be happy to discuss this matter at a time suitable to you, and invite you to contact us at your convenience. You may contact us at info@ombudsman.ky or 946-6283.

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