The Malta Independent 8 August 2020, Saturday

TMID Editorial: Police - Communication with the press

Monday, 27 July 2020, 08:06 Last update: about 12 days ago

Communication by the police with the press has seen a marked improvement recently.

Whereas in the past for example, during a major incident, the police would issue a press release, nowadays a member of the communications team is on site, delivers a statement and then is also available to answer questions.

The use of crime conferences, such as that on the day after Melvin Theuma’s suspected attempted suicide, was also most welcome. In addition, the police have also sent daily updates in terms of Melvin Theuma’s condition since then.

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Being open with the press in this manner helps create more trust between the two, and helps the public become better informed as to the ongoings within the Police Force on particular incidents.

Indeed, without such communication, the press in the past were left in the dark, either having to rely on emailed answers to questions or on anonymous police sources, and this for information that should have been made public to begin with.

The Police Force currently has a trust problem. People do not trust that the force is functioning well, and this is due to the past Police Commissioners inadequacies, lack of investigations into key public figures, and the traffic branch scandal.

In order to begin fixing the trust problems, communication with the public is a must, and it is good to see that current Commissioner Angelo Gafa and his communications team understand this.

People being able to see and understand what the force is doing and why is essential in building up that trust.

Does this mean that all is perfect? No, of course not, but the new Commissioner has shown the will to at least take a step in the right direction. One now hopes that such actions will continue throughout his time as chief, and hopefully beyond.

So what else could be done to improve the dissemination of information?

One thing which the Commissioner should consider is a scheduled weekly, bi-weekly or even monthly press conference, not tied to a particular investigation, where members of the press will have the opportunity to ask him questions related to the Police Force and its investigations, and where possible the Commissioner would be able to answer such questions.

This would come especially in handy since changes are expected to be taking place within the force. This way periodical updates can be given on such changes, and it will have the added benefit of giving publicity to the Police Force.

The force has also been more frequently releasing news statements about it successes, which in turn could help re-build confidence, however this will also be tied to its ability and willpower to go after those in positions of power, and not be seen to be skirting around such issues as was the case in the past. Perhaps reviewing why this was not done in the past and action being taken if there was a failure to proceed where they should have would be a step in the right direction.

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