Media awareness training for the RSIPF

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DEAR EDITOR, I was very pleased to read on Monday, April 16, 2018, that the Provincial Police Commander (PPC), Choiseul Province, Superintendent Cedor Nevol said the Media Awareness Training conducted at the Taro Police Station earlier this month would enable her officers to make more use of the power of the media to spread information to the people in the Province and rest of the country about the work of the police.

Superintendent Nevol was also quoted in the paper has having said:

“We are so privileged to be given this opportunity to learn about how we police officers can use the media to spread information and key messages about the work of the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) but more specifically the activities of the police in Choiseul Province,” says PPC Nevol.

Superintendent Nevol adds: “If we the police want our communities to have confidence in us, we must be transparent about our work and one of the ways we can do this is using the media including newspapers, radio and now the social media which is accessible by our people.”

Twenty one years ago as the Commissioner of Police in the Solomon Islands when I first implemented a policy of issuing regular police media reports I was heavily criticised for doing so by certain elements of the community.

In my subsequent book ‘Policing a Clash of Cultures,’ which I wrote after leaving the Solomon Islands at the end of my two year contract in July 1999, I recorded these observations of that unwarranted and unfounded criticism.

“Policing a Clash of Cultures Part 18: The Media Relations Connection

“Excerpt from my memoirs.

“Something of a ‘first’ for police – media relations in the Solomon Islands – 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 seemed to have their own agenda and deliberately produced false and misleading stories – stories indeed! Frankly the ‘local’ Islands media were much more honest in my opinion.

“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 with all 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 situation, as 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 one local parliamentarian in particular, and certain others 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 perturbed by this new police openness?”

It is therefore heartening, today, to see the RSIPF media savvy and fulfilling their vitally important public relations function with, seemingly, support from the community in doing so.

Yours sincerely

FRANK SHORT

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