There was an interesting missive on a UK website called
‘police oracle’ this week, given by none other than former Metropolitan Police
Commissioner Lord Stevens.
According to the website, Lord Stevens, commenting in
relation to the current state of play in the United Kingdom with the fallout
over the News of the World/Met police scandal, said it was absolutely necessary
for police and the press to maintain a working relationship.
“From what I have heard, people are absolutely terrified of
picking up the phone and speaking to the press in any way,” Lord Stevens said.
“I don’t think that is healthy. The press has their job to do. They have
delivered some outstanding work. There has to be a relationship with them for
the right reasons.
“If there’s no engagement, then the police risk not being
part of the community,” he said. “This will ultimately result in them being
distrusted. It is precisely in these conditions that public order outbreaks
occur as community tensions are heightened and there is public concern over the
actions of the police.”
This is an interesting take on police-press relations from a
fellow who held the Met’s top post between 2000 and 2005.
We’ve echoed these thoughts previously ourselves in a 2010
editorial, commenting on the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service’s decision to
effectively restrict police communications with the local press.
“We believe this decision to restrict press communications by
whoever made it – we hope it was really the police and not someone higher up in
the government bureaucracy – is a mistake. It is not in keeping with the spirit
of Freedom of Information. It will probably serve to create more public
suspicion and distrust of the police service, to the ultimate detriment of
community policing efforts.”
We’re not seeking to criticise local police with this
writing. Rather, we want to emphasise the importance of open communication
between law enforcement agencies and the press. Despite what has occurred in
the UK, where the relationship may have been a bit too cosy with some media
organisations, a productive working relationship between the groups must be