No one likes to be misunderstood, especially if they often find themselves under the society's spotlights. That's one of the reasons the Bangalore City Police department launched its own social media drive, a few days ago. The police department wanted a way to interact with citizens directly, said B. Dayananda, joint commissioner of police (crime-east), Bangalore.
Platforms like Facebook, and Twitter, also, offer the police a way to create a two-way information-sharing mechanism unlike what traditional media offers.
"Till date, traditional media, like the print and electronic media, were our voice to the public. But sensationalizing information or the influence of the media's opinion was diluting the transparency and the authenticity of the information passed to citizens," says Dayananda.
The police's ability to talk directly with citizens could have come handy during the recent incident when media hype fuelled the mass exodus of people from North-East working in cities such as Bangalore and Chennai. Despite the police department's constant assurance of no threat to citizens, large numbers of people left the cities creating chaos and confusion.
The Bangalore police already have a blog and a Pinterest account. They also plan to use YouTube.
However, Dayananda emphasized that these social media platforms are not meant to be grievance redressing systems. They are, he said, another way of hearing the public's voice.
"That said, we will, of course, try our best to help citizens who have queries, complaints, comments or feedbacks. We can guide them to the appropriate person who can help resolve an issue or advice people on what steps they can take--but everything has to be done according to official procedures," he said.
Dayananda explained that a dedicated team of six people has been trained to manage the pages on various sites--around-the-clock. This team will be responsible for responding to the posts of citizens and will collaborate within the police system to help resolve issues faster.
When asked whether there are any do's and don'ts that citizens should keep in mind while posting something on these forums, Dayananda said that he would request citizens to adhere to social etiquette that's generally applicable on public forums.
The police forces of both Mumbai and Delhi have their own Facebook pages, although engagement is almost negligible and it's evident that the departments are not active on these forums. While the Mumbai police was proactive enough to open their Facebook account on November 27, 2008, there has been just one update from its side in the past three years.
Dayananda said that the Bangalore police's initiative is fairly new and they will wait for some time to decide how they would like to expand it. As of now, the page seems to have received good feedback, with 1,184 likes in the two days since it went up.
The department has engaged Havas Worldwide Digital Matrix to develop applets for its Facebook page. These include "Elders Helpline" and "Hello Neighbour". Worldwide Digital Matrix is providing technical training to police officers as well.
The Facebook page of Bangalore City Police is www.facebook.com/blrcitypolice, the Twitter account is www.twitter.com/BlrCityPolice, and their YouTube channel can be accessed at www.youtube.com/blrcitypolice.