At October’s council meeting councillor Nick Adey brought up a point that he would like to see the RCMP improve their communication with the public, following two incidents involving attacks on individuals which became “the subject of conversation on one of the profanely-named websites.”
Adey is right.
The RCMP have a communication problem, not only a social media problem but also trusted, local media problem.
Maybe problem isn’t the word but rather it’s a lack of timely communication.
Unlike social media, The Northern View does not publish rumours or unverified information. But not unlike social media, we too have difficulty getting answers from the Prince Rupert RCMP.
Case in point — the disappearance of Lawrence Maitland in Lax Kw’alaams.
When Maitland went missing his family and friends were concerned, asking for updates every week. Then rumours began to swirl that there were arrests made in relation to his case. Despite repeated attempts to get an update from Prince Rupert’s RCMP, we came up empty-handed. Their communications officer was not around to answer questions or dispel the myths.
There was also images released to The Northern View by the Prince Rupert RCMP asking for the public’s help in identifying two individuals who may have damaged public property. The individuals quickly identified themselves to our newspaper and explained the damage was there prior to their mischief and asked if we could clear their names — which were now circulating around social media in relation to the crime. Doing our due diligence, we reached out to the RCMP to verify that they were clear of all charges, but again no answer.
These are just two of the most recent examples of a lack of communication.
But this lack of communication is in no way the fault of their spokesperson.
The officer, who is in charge of media relations for Prince Rupert, is only one person and can become bogged down with more urgent issues than informing the public of every update.
But be that as it may, it is still important for the RCMP to be mindful that community updates are important.
So what can be done as a solution?
As is the nature with small city institutions, their communications department is only one person.
However, the RCMP needs to find a way to accommodate the public’s right-to-know accurate information.
It is necessary that Prince Rupert RCMP either make the time or make more than one officer available to answer important and need-to-know questions.
That policy could be very effective.
For example, in Maitland’s case we asked if there were, in fact, arrests tied to the file. When we asked one officer, we were redirected to their spokesperson who was on vacation.
Surely that officer could have given us a yes or no to the question?
But unfortunately they were just following proper procedure.
In the meantime, social media fanned the flames of rumour, speculation and falsehoods that could have been quickly extinguished with some timely communication by the RCMP.
Instead, in just the two cases we have listed, anxiety and fear increased and two individuals had their names and reputations maligned.
It’s time for the RCMP to make time.
Jenna Cocullo | Journalist
Send Jenna email
Follow us on Twitter