Police being trained in good media relations
Stabroek News
April 1, 2004

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"We do not have a rich history of relations with the media and I say this because many of you know of the standing orders which restrict certain people from talking with the media, or in those days [when the order came into existence] it was the press."

Those were the words of Commissioner of Police, Winston Felix at the opening of a four-day media workshop for police officers at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel yesterday.

Many media operatives view the workshop as a good thing, since they have experienced difficulties with officers, particularly in some of the far-flung areas, who refuse to answer some of the most basic questions.

Felix said today the situation has changed. Because of the wide reach of the media, for example, even in the most remote parts of the country, such as Essequibo, there are television stations. As such, he said, there was no reason why the police should not be in a position to communicate with the media.

He said it was in recognition of this that the four-day workshop was initiated: to prepare them for the road that lies ahead. "This workshop is intended to impart to you the necessary knowledge and skills which will enable you to efficiently and effectively communicate with the media."

He cautioned the officers that they will not be made reporters but rather they are being prepared as law enforcement officers, "to stand before a [microphone], to stand before reporters and to deliver yourself eloquently giving what details the public should get without compromising an investigation or any law enforcement situation you are addressing."

He stressed that the ranks should make the fullest use of the programme and they should tap into the resources of the BBC journalist, Michael Delahaye since the BBC has developed a wealth of knowledge and experience covering from crime to wars. Delahaye, who is a former BBC television journalist with 30 years' experience in the media, is facilitating the programme and he is assisted by British police consultant, John Beverly.

Felix told the officers it was important for them to draw heavily from both of the facilitators so that when they leave they would possess that degree of knowledge, which would enable them to perform in a manner that brought credit to themselves and the organisation.

Delahaye said while they are there to assist the officers it would be the duty of the officers to identify the key issues in police/media relations in Guyana. He said it was the officers who know their country. The two will return in a few months to gauge the work and response by the officers and their counterparts.

The commissioner said the programme became a reality because of the efforts of the government in ensuring that there is reform of policing in the country. In 2001, Felix who was then deputy commissioner and other senior officers attended a development training programme sponsored by the Metropolitan police in London.

He said at that training programme, where Beverly was a facilitator, a strategic programme for the Guyana Police Force was developed, which identified the relationship with the media as one area that required improvement.

"It was recognised then and it is recognised now that the role of the police... places the organisation in a position where information which should be in a public domain, should reach it through the media."

Some nineteen senior and junior police officers are participating in the programme.