On Wednesday morning the Police Department in Belize City hosted Formation Commanders and Deputy Formation Commanders for a two-day training, concerning improving communications with the media.
At the opening ceremony, Commissioner of Police Allen Whylie said that Formation Commanders and Deputy Commanders are free and invited to speak with reporters on critical issues related to crime in their respective district.
Belize City’s Eastern Division already has its own community and public relations unit to address such matters, and the Commissioner urged his men and women to freely cultivate a personal and professional relationship with the media, while reminding that there are limits to what can be presented in order to protect the rights of victims and complainants.
“I’m pleased to see so many of you here this morning for what I believe is a very important 2 day workshop. It took sacrifice, and determination to say let’s bring in all the district commanders and their deputies.
I believe that this is a workshop that is very timely and very essential. Essential simply because of the fact that, whilst we are out there and we will be making positive impacts in terms of safety and security. We do not own the medium to sell the message in terms of what we are doing. That medium is the media and we have got to depend on them to pass us in a positive light.
Whilst we understand the media has its own roles and function and should not be distorting the story. It is key that we will be able to sell our stories, that we be forthright with the media. That we be honest with the media. That we develop a personal relationship with the media. That we develop a professional relationship with the media.
The media is out there to get the news. They’ll be aggressive.
I am telling you and I am telling the media, that it is OK for them to call. It is OK for you to answer. It is OK for you to give interviews to the media.
I would prefer that they media seek the information from the formation commanders, the deputy formation commanders, where an incident of interest to them may have occurred.”
We asked the Commissioner to comment on a revised media policy discussing these limits, which he told us is in the process of being reviewed.
Commissioner Allen Whylie
“I’ve put together a small group to review that media policy, because through the years there might be a need to change some of the processes and the thought process. That committee has not yet presented the final draught back to me.”
Wednesday’s training session featured visits from well-known members of the press, to assist officers in gaining the confidence and skills required in addressing the media.