Police Public Relations Unit has to be much more on the ball than it is now
Stabroek News
April 30, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Unfortunately, the Public Relations Consultant to the Guyana Police Force,Mr Royston King, has articulated a fundamentally flawed response in his letter captioned "Information has to be checked before it can be given out" [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] (27.04.2002) to my concerns raised in my letter captioned "Public Relations Unit of the Guyana Police Force needs to be urgently strengthened" (24.4.2002).

Instead of addressing the real concerns which journalists across the media spectrum face in their relations with the GPF's Public Relations Unit, the Consultant has attempted to divert attention and in so doing the managerial deficiencies of the unit have been brought to the fore.

The fact that the GPF does not have a system in which one of the three officers- Mr King, Inspector Smith or Assistant Superintendent David Ramnarine- can be available to competently answer questions or provide clarifications is indicative of this deficiency. The others are junior officials in the unit and have on several occasions acknowledged that only either of those three officials can address queries or clarifications.

It is, therefore, appalling that there is no system in which one of the three officers is always available on a rotational basis to provide concrete and detailed responses and clarifications.

In relation to other aspects of the Consultant's response, I am hard-pressed to understand why the action of the police officer to say "I don't have time for that" and proceeding to hang up the phone abruptly should be condoned unless this is reflective of a new type of discipline and manners being inculcated.

What would have been more acceptable is if the police officer had ascertained the nature of the call and suggested that I speak with someone else.

The Consultant must be commended for recognising the need to provide accurate information but it is regrettable that he does not include the essential component of immediacy in his protocol of media relations. It is the lack of immediacy that lends itself to speculation by some media personalities as there is a lack of official information from the GPF between the time that the incident occurred and the long time that it takes to provide a release.

One example is the killing of Sergeant Kooseeram at 7AM but up to 9AM of the said day, the Public Relations Unit could not provide any information.

It is my hope that the Consultant is not saying or at best implying that the information at crime-scenes provided by investigators is not necessarily accurate and so has to be verified by the Public Relations Unit before dissemination.

The Consultant has failed to convince me, and I hasten to add any of my colleagues, that the decision to disseminate video copies of a press statement was not an attempt to shield the Commissioner of Police. What is the big difference between the video statement and the usual written statement. On one occasion, the statement was also read to another media house on condition and on another occasion the media house was summoned to record the statement, both on the understanding that no questions would be asked.

Understandably individualism, personality and style naturally varies from one person to the other but in organisations like the GPF there must be standard protocols for public officials like the Commissioner of Police to interface with the media, especially when there are issues and incidents of heightened public interest.

The Consultant makes yet another major blunder in his response by stating that the "question of press conferences and interviews has to do with time." This argument clearly reveals nothing less than contempt for reporters, journalists and editors in the broadcast and print media to execute their responsibilities in a timely manner.

In conclusion, barring your faithful public promise to act on my recommendations, I would hope that you re-examine your response and its inherent administrative deficiencies in the hope that together with the recommendations the GPF's relationship with the media is improved.

Yours faithfully,

(name and address provided)