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Dec 28, 1998

New police policy limits access to crime news

It is the Monday after a holiday weekend, a time when viewers like to catch up on three days worth of news, including reports on which of their friends and neighbors may have been robbed, raped, beaten, killed or caught in a traffic accident. The task of providing that kind of information has now been seriously impaired, however, by a new policy directive that limits official police reports to the media to Tuesdays and Thursdays. Minister of National Security Jorge Espat and Commissioner of Police Ornel Brooks did not return numerous phone calls placed by News Five but Permanent Secretary Allan Usher confirmed the change in traditional policy and said that the reason for going from daily to twice weekly press briefings was, and we quote, “to provide a better service to the community”. When asked to explain how twice a week served the public better than every day Usher said that the new system will promote more accurate reporting and the additional time will allow police to show when criminals have been quickly apprehended and not just that crimes have been committed.

Reaction to the new policy was uniformly negative among media practitioners. Channel Five News Director Stewart Krohn called the move “inexplicable” and wondered if the new administration’s approach to the crime problem was to simply have fewer crimes reported. He also cited the danger of such a policy to the public and police themselves. If, for example, a number of dangerous criminals have killed or robbed and are at this moment on the loose, what good does it do the community to find out about it four days later?

With that report as a preface we will now attempt to offer a rundown of the weekend’s crime and would like to thank the viewing public for continuing to provide us with timely information, albeit from unofficial sources. Also thanks to those individual police officers who we understand are still free to speak to the press as they see fit.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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