Monday, 18 February 2013 12:00 AM
Policing a Clash of Cultures Part 18: The Media Relations Connection
Excerpt from my memoirs.
Something of a ‘first’ for police – media relations in the Solomon Islands – deciding to make forming a Police Public Relations Office (PPRO) a priority.
The relationship between the media and the police is a tricky one; yet the objectives are the same – to inform the populace of events in an unbiased manner.
The media is in the business of selling news and the police are in the business of protecting the public who get some of their knowledge about events which concern them, by reading the news. Reports are not interesting reading – sensationalism is interesting reading. Therefore the media do tend to play with words.
Unfortunately certain members of the ‘international’ news media seemed to have their own agenda and deliberately produced false and misleading stories – stories indeed! Frankly the ‘local’ Islands media were much more honest in my opinion. More on this media situation in a later chapter.
I defined my position to local media representatives by telling them that my broad aims were to assist in providing information on police policies and procedures, in order to promote good public relations with all sections of the community.
I explained that unnecessary secrecy about police work could be damaging and that the police must display openness and frankness in their dealings with the press. I also added that I considered the admission of a mistake could often evoke sympathetic understanding, but any defensive evasion could only heighten suspicion.
I explained that it was my intention to eventually, have trained police officers handle press enquiries and to issue releases. However our situation, as they well knew, would make physical progress in this area somewhat slow. However my phone line was still operational both ways.
While one had the determination to see a PPRO eventuate, one was handicapped from the start by not having even the basic equipment to get the project off the ground.
One felt it vitally important to make a start and here I began by issuing regular press releases which I typed out myself on an old portable typewriter.
Finally a computer was acquired; office equipment repaired, such as the copying machine, fax and printer. One was now able to work more effectively and efficiently.
It was always my desire to ensure the PPRO fulfilled the aims and objectives of police policy, including guidance to police officers, but also to ensure the public would see that our ‘image’ was backed up, acted out and enhanced by the workforce.
It was regrettable to me that one local parliamentarian in particular, and certain others took the view that by informing the public of what was happening in the police, I was ‘attention grabbing.’ One wonders why they failed to see the wider picture, or were they somewhat perturbed by this new police openness?
To be continued...
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Frank Short, CBE and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.