Information has to be checked before it can be given out
Stabroek News
April 27, 2002

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Dear Editor,

I refer to a letter captioned "Public Relations Unit of the Guyana Police Force needs to be urgently strengthened" [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] (24.4.2002).

The writer is right, and we readily agree, on the need to strengthen the Police Public Relations Unit. However, he is quite wrong on his protocol and understanding of how the Public Relations Division should operate. While it is important and necessary for the Public Relations operatives to be available to the Press their relations with other publics and other allied responsibilities make it difficult for them to speak any and every time with members of the media. It is not always convenient for them to do so. This is why we do not find any fault in the Officer's approach to the situation. If the story as put in the letter is accurate then the officer concerned ought to be commended rather than rebuked. At the time in question, I was engaged with a senior officer and could not be reached to take any calls, telephone or otherwise, for that period. The officer, who was quite busy, knowing the seriousness and urgency of the meeting, quite correctly informed the caller of the circumstances, and offered to take a telephone number to have the call returned. However, it appeared that did not satisfy the caller. So he attempted to raise a hypothetical case about the possession of information for the Police.

Remember, Public Relations is crucial to any organisation and must be approached, by those involved in a businesslike manner. Once a specific request has been addressed those concerned should proceed to allow other things to be done. If the caller had information then it could have been passed on to the very police officer, who was the most appropriate person to deal with such reports.

On the question of the release of information, we continue to say almost ad nauseam that reporters and journalists can make any number of requests for information, but Public Relations must first verify the accuracy of any information disseminated to the media. So while information may be available it may not be verifiable and therefore could not be released. Given the extant security and other conditions in our society, it is imperative for the Unit to ensure the accuracy of information released to the press. Some features of the media have the liberty to speculate and even make assumptions, however, the Public Relations Unit must at all times, be sure of the integrity of its information.

Again, we regret that the writer believes that a decision by the Guyana Police Force to dispatch video copies of press statements by the Commissioner of Police on the circumstances surrounding a shooting incident was part of a plan to shield the Commissioner from the scrutiny of the media.

We regret also that the writer considered it an insult to journalists and the public at large, in fact the police force has always tried its best to be transparent and open to the public as far as practicable, guided by its own intelligence. However, the specific case in question had to do with the element of time. The urgent need to disseminate that statement stipulated that it was the most appropriate thing to do. A properly organised press conference would have taken much more time than was used, by this method, to release the information to the media. There was no other motive.

Further, no one could shield the Commissioner of Police from the scrutiny of the media whether he hold press conferences and interviews or not. The very character of his statutory office places him in the spotlight of the media. Also, within recent times, he has been the most-talked about public figure on almost all of our television channels and in our dailies.

Moreover, it is unfair for the writer to attempt to compare the incumbent Commissioner with his predecessor. After all, everyone has a unique individualism, personality and style. Naturally, these personal character traits would be carried over to the work situation. These are what make the world interesting. Therefore a fair judgment would be based on the circumstances in which the present Commissioner is called upon to discharge his responsibility rather than a comparison with another Commissioner, who himself used his unique style to fulfil his mandate.

Again, the question of press conferences and interviews has to do with time. The Guyana Police Force provides a multiplicity of services, in a number of areas in society, including traffic, immigration, social and other welfare matters, criminal investigation, juveniles situation, narcotics and a host of other things. Even so, the Commissioner has been working out arrangements to meet not only media managers but also other interested organisations, agencies and groups.

Generally, we wish to thank the writer for the listed recommendations, many of which are currently engaging the attention of the Guyana Police Force. But recommendation (1) must also take into account a reciprocal arrangement.

Yours faithfully,

Royston King

Public Relations


Guyana Police Force