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Commendable effort by police commissioner

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Fri Mar 28, 2013

The recent attempts by Police Commissioner Michael Charles to meet with and be accessible to the public must be commended and the top cop would do well to make these interventions a central focus of his entire tenure.{{more}}

It is not that engaging the public is novel, groundbreaking territory for a police commissioner or even other heads of public institutions, but Mr. Charles’ outreach, to which many observers have attached a sincerity label, is critical for its timing and for meeting public expectations of his organization.

The move, for example, to be physically present at the recent funeral of Sharpes Village, Chateaubelair resident Silma ‘Codo’ Thomas, even as a significant chunk of the community openly accused the police of contributing to her sudden demise, can be marked down to understanding that the institution is accountable to the people and the head of the institution best represents that position.

His public acknowledgement of the call for an investigation into Codo’s death by the area representative Patel Mathews – an opposition Member of Parliament, even if he already intended to initiate such a probe, also speaks to him understanding the need for the public to perceive the police as responsive to both sides of the political divide and even-handed in its pronouncements and actions.

In this regard, it is also noteworthy that the Commissioner, opted to open himself to public questioning on live radio, on a talk show and radio station known to be openly sympathetic to the parliamentary opposition, and to provide forthright answers to the wide ranging questions.

Taken along with other actions such as his decision to discipline two officers for telling assistance-seeking members of the public that there was no available police transportation; and word that his chief public relations officer was taking a hands-on look at community policing practices in neighbouring countries with a view towards instituting best practices here, are also steps in the right direction.

The commissioner however has the challenge to ensure that all officers regard themselves as part of this effort to build loser police/community relations.

Public perception of less than professional performances or of open political posturings by officers – individually or collectively, would render even the best efforts at the top to be of little worth. And perhaps the Public Relations department may wish to publicise the outcome of the investigations into submitted public complaints, to help build confidence and trust in the PR process.

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