Why Chennai Police needs to be more active on social media

With Bengaluru and Mumbai Police taking Twitter by storm, how much longer before Chennai Police take to this important communication channel? It can be very useful in spreading awareness about law and order issues and changing public perception about the police.

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.

 

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.

 

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

Twitter

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

 

Facebook

City URL Number of likes
1) Bengaluru https://www.facebook.com/BlrCityPolice 626,419
2) Mumbai Does not exist NA
3) Delhi https://www.facebook.com/DelhiPoliceOfficial 10,203
4) Hyderabad https://www.facebook.com/hyderabadpolice/ 193,151
5) Kolkata https://www.facebook.com/kolkatapoliceforce/ 246,752
6) Chennai https://www.facebook.com/Chennai.Police/ 104,921

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Similar Story

City Buzz: Delhi’s water crisis, heatwave | NEET exam again for 1,563 … and more

In other news: Property prices spike in Tier-2 cities, 10 million urban houses under PMAY in 5 years and menstrual hygiene rules for schools.

Battling Delhi's water crisis amid heatwave The Delhi High Court on June 12 directed Haryana to reply to a contempt plea over its non-compliance of the court’s earlier order regarding water supply to Delhi. But the Haryana government on June 12 had told the Supreme Court that no excess water was released by Himachal Pradesh to send to Delhi. Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government on June 11 formed “quick response teams” to manage main water distribution networks and prevent leakages, according to Water and Revenue Minister Atishi. Additional district magistrates (ADMs) and sub-divisional magistrates (SDMs) were deployed to…

Similar Story

Councillor Talk: Menaga Shankar of Ward 197 promises access to education and government services

Menaga Shankar, Councillor of Ward 197 has a vision of improving the standards of corporation schools and bringing e-Sevai centres to her ward.

Menaga Shankar was born, brought up and married in Uthandi, now a part of Ward 197. She contested on an AIADMK ticket and was elected as a first-time councillor from the same ward. A political science student in college, she entered politics to bring good educational infrastructure to the people. She says she is particularly invested in the education of girl children. Ward 197 has upmarket localities with posh bungalows along the coast, while on the other hand, it is also home to marginalised communities who depend on fishing and farming for their livelihood. The ward’s boundaries begin in Akkarai…