Police view: 'We want to be open with you…'

The media and the police are playing on the same side and should be building stronger working relationships, according to one of Scotland’s leading policemen.

Malcolm R Dickson, assistant chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police, said both organisations had the same “customers” and used similar methods. He told the conference: “We have similar aims: both inform the public, we prevent crime, detect crime and affect change for the better.”

And he said both police and newspapers used investigation, gathering evidence and reporting to effect their own aims.

“We also have the same customers: the general public, opinion formers, policy makers and victims and criminals.”

Dickson said police and press were “on the same side but playing with different offside rules and different priorities”.

He said often officers were constrained by operational reasons in giving the whole story, but stressed: “We would like to be as open with you as we can.

“Back-scratching is a way we look at it; and in the same way it is a love-hate relationship, but we feed you and you help us,” he said.

The senior officer, who has a masters degree in fine arts and moral philosophy, said he was sometimes left exasperated by the inaccuracy of some stories he has been involved in and felt some news stories exaggerated crimes.

Dickson said the police often saw the media as having the potential to sensationalise and exaggerate, while the media saw the police as too selective in what they disclosed and tried to hide embarrassing information.

“I would never try to suppress a story because it’s embarrassing.

We should try to get rid of that happening, but I’m sure it does happen.”

Dickson, chairman of the media sub-committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, said the police had been hit by “malcontented officers” leaking “malicious” information to the press, but he claimed there was now a “period of action to take down these individuals”.

He also called for an increase in trust. “We need to get police and reporters together to discuss these issues and we must both try to be accurate and truthful,” he said


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