Editorial: Communication breakdowns limit news

In recent years, communication from different levels of government, and different government agencies, has become exceeding more limited. The flow of information is slower, less detailed, and more managed. At all levels, inquiries for information move at a snail’s pace. Access to Information processes are responded to in years, not months or days as is required by law.

This stiffling of information has extended to the police – primarily the Ontario Provincial Police. The police service has a media department, and a news portal for media to access. Regularly updates were made of police operations that happened, shortly after they occurred. Weekly reports were published with the usual list of Highway Traffic Act offences, and drunk driving issues. Some offences warranted separate releases, or even emails to newsrooms. That all has changed and there is no rhyme or reason to how information is released.

Now, OPP use the American social media platform Twitter to report when operations happen, but only some of the time. The media portal is rarely updated by some detachments. Often, unless residents call into a newsroom, what police do is left unreported.

Even when a tip is received, inquiries to the OPP are often missing details that are public, but not released. When readers read information gaps in news stories published, that is not done by this newspaper or any other outlet to censor information. It is stating that the source, vis-a-vis the police, has not provided a clear answer, or any answer at all.

A recent possible robbery report that led to drug charges did not include anything identifiable concerning the those arrested other than location or age. Not even gender. Frequently details of those charged, where they are from, who they are, and other relevant details are left out by police. Understandably, there are rules that those arrested cannot be identified if such information will identify a victim. Those rules have not changed in the last 10 years, so why has the reporting?

When The Leader asked Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry OPP officials if communications would improve, the question was left unanswered.

These missing details are important as they speak to accountability. If the OPP is not providing information about how it operates in the communities its officers serve, how can it be held accountable? And for those who do break the law, how are they held to account for their actions if no one knows those actions have happened?

Increasing the flow of public information out of the OPP will help improve accountability for both the police, and the community. To limit information calls into question public safety. Clearly better work needs to be done.

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