KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Senior cops at the Police Public Relations Dept. instruct their juniors about the media entities to which they should send police information, an I-Witness News conversation with Corporal Smith of that office Monday afternoon suggests.
I-Witness News, which is operated by Taiwan-based Vincentian journalist Kenton X. Chance, called the police PR office to ask if there was any information about an incident in Union Island in which police reportedly killed three Venezuelans while a local Customs guard died during a shootout between the law enforcement agents and suspected Venezuelan drug runners on Sunday.
Chance called the police PR office Monday afternoon asking for information about the shooting.
“My name is Kenton Chance of I-Witness News. I am trying to get some information about this shooting in Union Island,” he said to the cop who identified herself as Corporal Smith.
“Hmmmmmm. The information is ready but it has to be perused by the officer. He hasn’t perused it yet,” Smith responded.
Chance went on to explain to the cop that his repeated attempts to have the police add his media entity to their email list of PR information recipients have failed.
“Mr. Chance, I am working with somebody yo hear,” Smith responded while Chance was still midsentence. “So I have to take instructions. So as soon as the information is ready, I will send it to the media,” she further stated.
“Ma’am, ma’am, you are giving me an untoward response even before I say what I wanted to say. But the point I was gonna make was that I have asked the police several times to add my email address to their mailing list and I am not sure that has been done -” Chance stated.
“I take instructions from my superior officer and that is what I am doing. I think I saw your name on the thing. I will ask him if I can send it to you and if he say whatever, I have to take instructions. So, as soon as it is ready, I will ask him and I will disseminate the information,” the cop said.
“So, if he doesn’t say send it to me, you can’t send it to me? Is that what you are saying?” Chance asked.
“I am not saying anything. I am just saying what I have been told,” the cop said before the call ended with an exchange of pleasantries.
Chance, who has a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and mass communication and a Master of Arts in international affairs, has been operating I-Witness News as “a not-for-profit, public service undertaking” since 2009. The site has seen readership spike to an average of 60,000 hits per month over the past six months, with visitors living mainly in Canada, the United States, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in that order.
The commercial-free site has reported on many issues related to police and policing in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including their warning last week that Carnival shows will be shut down if violence breaks out.
After several failed attempts to have the I-Witness News email address included on the police emailing list, Chance on Nov. 6, 2011 contacted via Facebook police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner of Police Jonathan Nichols asking for assistance.
Nicholls explained that he was overseas on vacation at the time but said he would “look into it when I go back”.
On Dec. 7, in another Facebook communication, Nichols said that while he was back in St. Vincent, he was not yet back on the job.
Chance again contacted Nicholls on Jan. 13 saying:
“… I hate to contact you, via Facebook, on this. However, I have made several telephone calls to the police public relations office asking them to add me to their mailing list. It seems that that has not happened, since I am not receiving any of their releases. Further, I called yesterday, specifically to ask for the release relating to [escaped prisoner] Godwin Moses, a female, who identified herself as Smith (corporal, I think) answered the phone. I told her who I was, who I represent (I-Witness News) and my request, she asked, “So you are in Taiwan?” She then promised to send the release. I am yet to receive it. I will really appreciate any assistance you can give in this regard.”
Chance did not receive a response to that message nor another sent on Jan. 17 saying: “Inspector, Happy New Year. Did you remember to add I-Witness News to the Police Public Relations mailing list?”
However, there is no way to determine whether the senior cop in fact received the electronic communications.