The Independent Police Complaints Council issued the “Thematic Study Report on the Public Order Events arising from the Fugitive Offenders Bill since June 2019 and the Police Actions in Response” in May. The report puts forward a series of recommendations in improving the transparency of police operations and ways to facilitate press activities at scene on the condition of not affecting police operations. In the light of these recommendations, the Police Public Relations Branch (PPRB) has reviewed the media relations strategy to strengthen our field supporting capacity.
During Operation TIDERIDER, PPRB is committed to providing support to frontline police officers by deploying teams of Force Media Liaison Cadre (FMLC), or commonly known as the “blue vests”, to different fronts since the very beginning of the Operation. Over the last year, over 8 600 officers were deployed in accumulation to assist respective Regional Response Contingents (RRCs). FMLC officers were often seen deployed upfront between reporters and police check lines with a view to timely intervening heated situations to prevent unnecessary conflicts arose from misunderstandings or miscommunications. FMLC officers would act as mediators to ease the tension proactively at scene and ensure frontline officers would not be disrupted by overwhelming press activities or enquires. Throughout Operation TIDERIDER, eight FMLC officers were injured in violent and riotous scenes, but FMLC officers would remain steadfast, carrying out their duty faithfully alongside their frontline colleagues.
To foster team cohesion between FMLC and RRCs, the senior management of PPRB has given a series of sharing sessions to all RRCs over the past few months to exchange views on the difficulties encountered in dealing with media related matters on the front line. Externally, Senior Force Management held a meeting with respective representatives of major media associations in May 2020. During the meeting, the media representatives affirmed the value and function of FMLC and requested the Police to mobilise more FMLC members at the scenes of conflict to facilitate press activities.
To better coordinate and centralise FMLC’s resources, PPRB established a FMLC secretariat commanded by a chief inspector in March 2020. To accommodate the increasing operational needs during public order events, the cadre size of FMLC has been expanded to 307 officers in late May, thanks to the support from Personnel Wing and Police College, who had identified and nominated 37 officers with public relations or public order events-related experience to join the cadre.
In the foreseeable future, PPRB will continue to provide staunch support to frontline officers and serve as a bridge between the Police and the media. At the same time, FMLC will tailor-make a series of training courses for different units, including simulation training, experience sharing sessions, and guest lectures by journalists regarding the latest trend in the media industry, with a view to further enhancing the professional knowledge and media handling skills of police officers. Furthermore, PPRB is exploring the possibility in arranging an exchange platform for frontline reporters and RRC officers to share their views on on-site work arrangements and other issues with each other in a relaxed setting, so as to improve the mutual understanding between police officers and the media.