Police Public Relations Unit must provide information faster
Stabroek News
May 7, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Firstly, I must commend the Acting Commissioner of Police for hosting the recent news conference and it is hoped that future such encounters with him and his successor would reflect a greater degree of preparedness so that the public could be provided information with greater clarity, detail and substance while not compromising investigations and operations.

I welcome the fact that the Public Relations Consultant of the Guyana Police Force Mr Royston King recognises the importance of providing accurate information and so his argument needs to be taken to its logical conclusion that the Guyana Police Force urgently needs to introduce a mechanism that guarantees the speedy processing and dissemination of accurate information.

Therefore, I would strongly recommend to Mr King that he ceases to propagate a flawed concept of Public Relations of which Media Relations is a vital component especially as it relates to an organisation that should be readily able to avoid and counter speculation especially in dealing with the committing of serious crimes or the occurrence of major accidents.

In his latest response of May 5, 2002, Mr King has illustrated the core of the misconception by unambiguously stating that "We are not willing to sacrifice accuracy for anyone's notion of immediacy."

In none of my letters have I sought to articulate a position that either of these elements should be sacrificed for the other. Instead, he seeks to introduce a flawed argument to divert attention from the crux of the constraint that media professionals and personalities face on an almost daily basis.

I trust that the Consultant would reflect on my first letter (24.4.2002) in which I unambiguously stated that the twin elements of news are "accuracy and immediacy" which, put differently, means that your media relations would only achieve its objective the sooner you recognise and implement this basic theoretical perspective.

If the operatives of the Public Relations Unit of the Guyana Police Force were trained about what is news and acquainted themselves with the real-life operations of print and broadcast news rooms, I am sure that Mr King would not have attempted to separate accuracy from immediacy. It appears that either the present Public Relations Unit knows what journalists need but cannot satisfy their demands or does not know what they need and so cannot deliver the goods.

No one disputes that the Public Relations Unit has been releasing information to the media but the gaps between the incidents and the releases are very long. In the interim, officers of the Public Relations Unit should be calling media houses with the very basic information on an incident and be on standby to answer questions at least via telephone. The release with the finer details can follow. That is all we journalists ask-simple!

If ever the Consultant wanted to gauge whether my concerns about the operations of the Public Relations Department and recommendations to improve that department had merit, the Stabroek Editor's note to Mr King's latest response of May 5,2002 should be also used as a barometer.

It is clear that the existing status quo of the Public Relations Unit would not cultivate a healthy relationship between the media and the Guyana Police Force unless the administration of the force takes a cue from the issues raised in my letters and the Editor's note.

Should the administration of the Guyana Police Force think that these concerns are non-existent or seldom obtain, then you ought to satisfy your hunch by conducting a scientific survey among media houses on the efficiency and effectiveness of the public relations system of the force. In order to guarantee objectivity, the survey should be conducted by persons/firm that have no affinity to the Public Relations Unit of the Police Force.

Alternatively, the Public Relations Unit should hold a forum for media practitioners, not only editors, to exchange views about the way in which we can be of mutual benefit.

Secondly, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the High Command of the Guyana Police Force should also add the improvement of Media Relations to its list of much needed assistance from Britain's Scotland Yard.

Finally, I wish to assure the administration of the Guyana Police Force that the only motive of my letters is to highlight the challenges that reporters, journalists, editors and other media personalities face in accessing information that is both accurate and immediate to avoid speculation and rumour-mongering by some media personalities.

Yours faithfully,

Journalist (Name and address provided)