Editors call for forum to improve police PR

Robinson: collated concerns

Johnston Press editors are being urged to write to the Home Secretary suggesting talks between police chiefs, senior media managers and editors to review police press officers’ role nationally.

A group survey revealed that editors are expressing widespread discontent with police press officers and the release of information on crimes.

Sixty-six editors from 80 of the group’s weekly, evening and free titles responded to the survey. Its findings were presented at an editorial and newspaper sales conference this month. The conference heard:

lEighty per cent of the editors felt that coverage of crime has either got worse or stayed the same as a result of police press office growth;

lSixty-five per cent reported they do not receive details of smaller incidents from police press officers;

lHalf said they did not have regular meetings with local officers or press officers;

lNearly half reported that they cannot get access to someone in the police force outside normal office hours.

The results, collated by Tim Robinson, managing editor of Welland Valley Newspapers, North, and Rob Gibbard, editor of the Buckingham and Winslow Advertiser group, brought to light incidents from the 180 delegates indicating "a growing culture of secrecy in justice".  One editor said his force had come under fire after an attempted child abduction: "It transpired there had been 10 such attempted abductions over a two-month period but because we had been alerted to the latest and most blatant one, they then decided to warn people about others. Parents and  teachers were up in arms at the delay."

The editors are to ask David Blunkett to redefine national guidelines for all forces, since press office policies differ from force to force.  They are also to press individually for better communication between the media and forces.

The findings have been passed to the Society of Editors.

 

By Jean Morgan

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