Norris: Police PRs should join the NUJ to improve working relations

The NUJ is to implement a recruitment drive among police press officers to improve diminishing relations with journalists.

Branch delegate for Portsmouth, Bob Norris, said there were growing reports of unhelpful press officers and a tendency to withhold information, and the increasing number of police PRs were poorly trained for dealing with journalists.

He told the conference: "Judging by the regular reports in Press Gazette, the situation with police press offices is getting worse rather than better. As a freelance journalist (before retiring last year)

I found that NUJ members who became police press officers were the most informative and helpful and were familiar with the code of conduct. Contrast that with [today's] non-journalists [who are] frequently ex-police personnel.

"Their loyalty is often not freedom of information but a wall of silence which all too frequently is the hallmark of the police.

"How do we combat this? By recruiting as many police press officers into the union as possible, familiarise them with the code of conduct and the code ofworking practice. Convince them they are with us as journalists and trade unionists and not against us. Get them to mingle with the journalists they deal with and get them trained."

Norris quipped: "All Portsmouth is asking for is for a fair cop."

Mike Jempson, representative for the press and PR sector, said: "If police press officers are unionised, it increases our access to what is actually going on within the police. We all know that if we have individual contacts with people, you tend to get briefed very well, off the record."

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