Any regular Twitter user over the past couple of years can attest to the popularity of the Twitter accounts of the Bengaluru and Mumbai police. By using the language of the people, through topical memes and witty quips, the police of two of India’s major cities have revamped their image to exude friendliness and increase accessibility. By leveraging the power of social media, these cities have led the way in adopting a new model of interacting with their citizens and addressing complaints and queries real time.
Fake message is floating on Whatsapp regarding this number as BCP’s Women Helpline. The number does not belong to BCP
People are requested not to believe or share this fake message. Stringent action will be taken against those who create and spread fake messages on social media pic.twitter.com/cG7Ky81dqd
— BengaluruCityPolice (@BlrCityPolice) June 1, 2018
— Mumbai Police (@MumbaiPolice) June 3, 2018
Chennai Police conspicuously low profile
A cursory look at the activity of the social media accounts of various city police forces shows that Chennai police has yet to fully embrace social media as a means to engage with the people. The twitter account of Chennai police, which has been active for close to five years, has the fewest number of tweets when compared to other metropolitan cities. The page also does not post native content but only links to various posts from its Facebook page. The account routinely gets tweets from citizens beseeching the police to take a more active approach online to get immediate solutions. Many women face time harassment and online abuse which could be addressed by prompt action if the police were active on social media.
Noticed that Chennai Police and Tamilnadu police do not have a Twitter account
like their counterparts in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, etc.@CMOTamilNadu
— Straight Talk India (@sttalkindia) May 20, 2018
Chennai Police please be active on Twitter. We need you to protect us from online sexual predators, molesters, potential rapists, abusers and stalkers
— Sυяραηαкнα (@fehmeenavoice) May 14, 2018
Chennai police is more responsive on Facebook, and posts on various issues faced by the citizens receive responses within a day or two. But citizens can be seen requesting follow up or updates on their queries. The page can also be streamlined to provide details of campaigns and programmes underway and helpline numbers for various issues.
Why the Police should be on Social Media
The possibilities of using social media for citizen engagement and effective policing are endless. The Bengaluru Police worked with Twitter India to create a dedicated twitter dashboard to monitor complaints real-time. The UP police has created a dedicated twitter account to debunk fake news that gets amplified in social media platforms. These police departments have also begun to engage social media strategists and experts to help hone their online presence. While the Mumbai police does not have a dedicated facebook account, their active approach on Twitter and the viral nature of their posts has helped them reach their message to reach the masses.
Sunchika Pandey, social media consultant for Mumbai Police, says “Before the Mumbai police launched social media accounts, there was a lot of research that went into it. The first reaction to police was fear, reluctance and hesitation, We wanted people to feel comfortable approaching the police. This move was just a natural progression. The police sees the maximum public interface out of all public organisations and it helps to know what the people are talking about. Twitter serves as an open public platform for interactions, issuing clarifications and showcasing work done by the police. The move also saves time as often people approach the police for concerns that must be addressed by a different authority. We point them in the right direction. It has also helped take the work of Mumbai police to a national level and collaborate with other city police departments on various issues. The most important thing however remains that we leave no query unanswered.”
As D D Padsalgikar, Commissioner of Police, Mumbai, puts it, “Being on social media has helped policing. It is an aspect that we must keep up with. We try to respond to people as quickly as possible and help is rendered to all those who ask.”
Chennai Police’s approach
Citizen Matters reached out to the office of Commissioner of Police, Chennai, for his comments but we were directed to Deputy Commissioner (IS) S Vimala, who spoke to us about the social media strategy of the Chennai Police. She said, “We do not really use Twitter extensively. We update our Facebook page and those links are posted here. We monitor the tweets that are sent to the handle and reach out to the individuals. On Facebook we also get many frivolous complaints and inflammatory posts as opposed to legitimate issues. We respond to the complaints as soon as possible. It may not be real time but we address them. These are not the only ways the people reach out to us. We get emails and complaints on our online portals as well.”
It is but natural that if there is more visibility and activity online, the more interactions it will yield. Even if the police reach out to individuals who post complaints online personally, the mode of operation lends to an appearance of inactivity. This might in turn result in fewer people considering it as a quick and effective way to approach the police, reducing overall engagement.
Other avenues for citizens include online complaints on the website of Chennai police, the TN Police Citizen Services app and an alternative SOS app – Kavalan, for emergency response service, launched on June 4. At the time of writing, the TN Police Citizen Services app was unable to register complaints, with an error message displayed on the screen.
Resource constraint or approachability issues?
Jayaraman Venkatesan of Arappor Iyakkam weighs in with his concerns. “One thing we’ve seen is, Facebook and other social media is not the formal way to lodge complaints. Sometimes the police will follow up on it, sometimes they may not. There is also the problem of attitude. The online complaint registration on the website of Chennai police is very good. But we’ve heard instances of online complaints not being taken seriously. People are still forced to go to the station physically. Approachability is an issue.”
The resources required for such an operation is not insignificant. The social media cell of the Mumbai police has 6-8 persons per shift including two senior officials who sign off on posts and provide directives on complaints. The personnel requirement may be one of the deterrents to following a similar strategy in Chennai.
There are many situations that require real time response from the police force and social media has proved to be a very effective tool in reducing the response time. It has also served as an excellent means to spread awareness about various issues faced by the people, provide updates on the campaigns and activities of the police and change public perception. While there may be currently be a scarcity of resources, it is only a matter of time before the Chennai Police recognise the need for this important communication channel.
Presence on Twitter and Facebook
|City||Account created on||Number of followers||Number of tweets|
|1) Bengaluru (@BlrCityPolice)||August 2012||1.23 million||75,100|
|2) Mumbai (@MumbaiPolice)||December 2015||4.6 million||63,600|
|3) Delhi (@DelhiPolice)||September 2013||190,000||18,300|
|4) Hyderabad (@hydcitypolice)||October 2014||88,300||21,800|
|50 Kolkata (@Kolkatapolice)||September 2015||648,000||1990|
|5) Chennai (@chennaipolice_)||May 2013||18,400||943|
|City||URL||Number of likes|
|2) Mumbai||Does not exist||NA|