2 April 2019
Police in the news.
As we have all seen very evidently in the past few months leading up to today’s General Election but even prior to that during the time the Regional Assistance Mission (RAMSI) was first deployed to the Solomon Islands in 2003 and throughout RAMSI’s stay, the Police Media Unit has played a significant part in helping the RSIPF with its image and highlighting its policing policy and initiatives.
We have come to accept the police’s use of the media as a “norm” and an effective tool for the police service to deploy and rightly so, I believe.
Undoubtedly the professional staffing of the Police Media Unit has aided the Commissioner of Police and his Senior Executives to get their important news briefs across and no doubt aided the RSIPF’s operational planning for the national General Election.
Twenty one years ago in trying to advise the community of the police service developments my attempts to relay important news was harshly criticized by many and I recounted the events of those times in my book ‘Policing a Clash of Cultures,’ from which I will quote.
“Something of a ‘first’ for police – media relations in the Solomon Island – 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 (in 1998 and 1999) seemed to have their own agenda and deliberately produced false andmisleading stories – stories indeed! ."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 withall 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 situatias 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 some 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 perturbedby this new police openness in 1997?"