(CMR) The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service (RCIPS) has released a media policy five months after the Office of the Ombudsman made the recommendation in response to a formal complaint from Cayman Marl Road regarding unfair media treatment.
In the entire history of the RCIPS, they have never had a media policy until now. The policy was made available Friday to the media on Friday and is also accessible to the wider public on their website.
CMR had complained about the RCIPS to the Office of the Ombudsman regarding being treated unfairly and not being given equitable treatment when questions were submitted for investigative follow-up. CMR provided numerous unanswered emails as proof of being ignored by then communications manager, Jacqueline Carpenter.
The Ombudsman noted:
“We have received hundreds of pages of email and communications between the RCIPS, CMR and third parties as well as a number of news articles”
In one instance, Carpenter accidentally sent an email intended for the CoP to CMR instructing him to ignore a request for information on behalf of a concerned victim. Originally received in March 2018 CMR attempted to work with Carpenter but to no avail.
Eventually, a formal complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman was filed in August 2019 after a CMR email asking for information on the matter of an imported firearm was not responded to. However, CNS sent almost identical questions and received a response.
The complaint took almost a year to receive a closing letter from the Ombudsman where she concluded “I support your complaint.”
The Office of the Ombudsman issued a response last August stating that the RCIPS did not have a media policy, making it difficult to govern CMR's case. The absence of a written policy made it impossible for anyone to have concerns adequately addressed.
CMR content manager Sandy Hill said she welcomed the RCIPS media policy and said she hopes other government agencies would follow suit. Hill said,
“I am really pleased that the RCIPS finally has a written media policy. We are still waiting on other government agencies such as Government Information Services (GIS) to follow suit. Unfortunately there has been a clear demonstration of favoritism and unfairness when it comes to certain media houses in the Cayman Islands and this has to stop.”
She said it had been challenging to access information from some agencies despite CMR's popularity in the Cayman Islands.
“CMR is the choice of the people when it comes to media, sadly the government and a lot of government departments and agencies were slow to accept that. Some continue to ignore our questions and request for information so I'm pleased to see that RCIPS has done this, it's a step in a positive direction to have a written policy that everyone can see,” Hill added.
Ombudsman Sandy Hermiston wrote, “While the RCIPS expresses its desire to work with the media as part of its public outreach measures, there is no written policy or guidance document which would govern this case.”
Hermiston said she would have recommended that the RCIPS create a written document that is publicly available and which states their requirements and expectations. She wrote that “as a public sector entity, best practice would indicate that they should adopt written policies or guidelines” with a view to the policy then being able to “remedy disagreements that arise”.
“The RCIPS should create a written policy to ensure they are dealing with media organizations in a fair and transparent manner,” Hermiston stated in the letter.
The letter also acknowledged that “CMR has the same legal right to public information that would be given to any other member of the Cayman Islands public.”
However, it stated that the RCIPS was under no legal obligation to respond to any media queries other than those submitted via FOI.
The letter from the Ombudsman said the RCIPS “should, however, respond equitably to all media organizations to the extent possible.”
CMR is pleased to share that since the departure of Carpenter from the force and the filing of the Ombudsman complaint the relationship with the RCIPS has significantly improved and is professionally amicable.