The Guyana Police Force, in keeping with one of the objectives of its strategic plan for 2013-2017 under the strategic priority of developing partnership, yesterday launched a five day Police Media Relations Officers Training Seminar.
The seminar which is being held at the Conference Room of the Police Officers’ Training Centre, is designed to specifically deal with the aspect of police/media public relations.
According to the seminar’s coordinator Ivelaw Whittaker, the intention is to have a number of selected and trained ranks function as Media Relations Officers in the seven Policing Divisions with the responsibility of assisting the Police Public Relations Department in its PR campaign through the submission of relevant, timely and accurate information on police activities in the Divisions.
“Actually, the system is not new to the Police Force. It was initiated several years ago following a police/media seminar that was held under the auspices of the British Government. At that time the ranks were referred to as Divisional Correspondents,” Whittaker, who is the current PRO of the Force, told a gathering of course participants, other senior police officers and special invitees at the opening ceremony yesterday.
Police Commissioner (Ag) Seelall Persaud in his feature address noted the importance of police/media public relations.
He urged the participants to make use of the opportunity to learn from some of “Guyana’s most experienced in the media business” so that the work of the Force could be positively reflected in the public.
The Commissioner challenged the course participants to come up with a document that can inform the way the Force engages positively with the media.
The timely provision of information to the media has been an issue that the police have always sought to alleviate and the use of the Divisional Correspondents was intended to assist in this direction.
Police PRO Whittaker recalled the documenting of a set of workable and suitable Media Relations Guidelines, aimed at enhancing the working relationship between the police and the media, which resulted from a previous seminar.
That document covers areas such as dealing with press releases, media access to scenes of incidents, seizure of media material, and personal responsibility.
The guidelines emphasised that the police will work cooperatively with bona fide representatives of the news media to facilitate their activities to gather factual information of public interest pertaining to the police, as long as those activities did not violate the law, infringe upon individual rights, or unduly interfere with imminent police operations or operations in progress.
The current training programme for the Media Relations Officers comprise classroom work on a number of appropriate subject areas in addition to visits to media agencies.
Facilitators, in addition to police personnel, are from the University of Guyana, PR Consultants, and media operatives inclusive of managers, news editors and journalists.
“We in the Guyana Police Force are committed to the fostering of better police community relations, and improved public trust and confidence, while at the same time, we are cognizant that the media has a lot of influence in determining public perception of and confidence in the police since most citizens depend on the mass media as their prime source of information. We will therefore, continue to actively pursue ways of enhancing the relationship with the media,” Whittaker said.
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