Goodwill at Risk from New Police Policy

The press office at a Scottish police force is at risk of overturning years of goodwill among journalists following a tightening of procedure.

Instead of being regarded as operating arguably the most helpful police press office in the country, Lothian and Borders Police now risk – by becoming much more formal in their dealings with the media – alienating hacks.

On data protection grounds, key information may be now difficult to get hold off, though fears that it might even be impossible to be told someone’s age, may prove unfounded.

Off-the-record comment is being, similarly, clamped down upon.

Other than in exceptional circumstances, police press officers will be unable to use mobile telephones to speak to journalists – landlines of course having the advantage of
being easy to monitor. At weekends and during the evening, journalists will have to go through the force’s main switchboard number to be then routed to the duty press officer.

If finding the source of any leaks is one of the purposes of the clampdown, one journalist assured Spike: none come from the press office.

He added: “In truth, L&B’s press office have built up such a good relationship with the media over the years, and are held in such high esteem, that they have successfully had unfavourable stories buried, watered down, made to go away, because there has been a reluctance [by hacks] to turn them over.”

A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: “We have an excellent working relationship with the media in Scotland who are able to contact our press officers at any time of the day at the media relations office at Force Headquarters or, outwith office hours, our ‘on call’ press officer can be contacted through the Force Communication Centre. We believe that the reinforcement of current policies, including using the call logging system, will be of benefit to both Lothian and
Borders Police and the media in Scotland.”

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