Chance for police to win hearts, minds

The on-going issue involving our police force and how they are responding to the 'nude ear-squats' incident has not gone down well with politicians and the concerned public.

The intense publicity on the way the police are handling detainees and reacting to the issues highlighted has already spilled into the international media. To dismiss the adverse publicity is foolish. To disregard all the negative reporting is akin to behaving like an ostrich when faced with danger.

The reactions and reports filed in various countries have without doubt dealt a severe blow to the many decades of positive image building by the police. And for this to surface at a time when our prime minister is attending a global meeting of heads of state is surely a painful and embarrassing episode.

Instead of taking a strategic public relations approach to contain the damage and restore its tarnished reputation, the police obviously seem to be making more mistakes as seen from their responses, actions and seeming inactions.

It would be in the best interest of all concerned citizens, our leaders, the thousands of committed police personnel and the country as a whole if the police can use strategic public relations to manage this issue that is on the brink of erupting into a full-fledged crisis.

Here are some tips that the chiefs within the force can consider:

- Do not be seen to be taking a defensive or a punitive position. Work extra hard at earning empathy votes.

- Be seen to be more accepting to the fact that things could have gone wrong and that the police chiefs will act in the best interest of all the concerned and affected parties.

- Be more reassuring in words and action and that there will be no witch-hunting or sacrificial lambs.

- Step forward to solicit a consultative approach to help plug any loopholes or proven problems within the force.

- Demonstrate sincerity in wanting to correct any potentially erroneous conditions.

This is not the time to talk about punishment and law enforcement. Attempting to be righteous does not help either. On the contrary it would be more effective if the police were to take a contrite and humble position.

And be easily accessible to the media. The more one avoids the media, the greater the risks of speculation causing further damage to reputation. It is important that the police chiefs see the current situation as an opportunity to win the hearts and minds of the rakyat.

After all, they must be sensitive to public opinion which can make or break any organisation or group eventually. At this stage, strategic public relations dictates that facts do not matter. What must be addressed are the perceptions taking shape both within and outside the force.

It is the hope of all good citizens that this dent on the police will soon be hammered out and we would all be wiser and better off for the future. Otherwise, there are no winners.