Since joining Twitter in December, Mumbai Police has been steadily winning Twitter with its witty 140-character wordplay. Over the last few months, its accounts have tweeted public service messages on issues such as cyber stalking, traffic safety and an anti-drugs campaign, but with a dose of humor.
Humor could be the last thing people may associate with any police person, but over the last several months, Mumbai Police has overcome that stereotype, emerging as a witty, smart one-liner spouting force on Twitter. Twitterati loves them for their witty tweets, brilliant puns, and the ingenious ways in which they are spreading awareness. They have more than 2,21,701 followers already, and are using these numbers to share public service messages addressing issues like road safety, drug use, and cybercrime, with a collection of amusing tweets.
Since its Twitter debut in December 2015, Mumbai Police has fast become one of the most popular accounts on Twitter, and is spoken about more than its pioneering counterpart, Bangalore Police. It’s not just about humour, though. The accounts are handled not only by police officers, but also by a bunch of young social media consultants, who are responsible for the puns that also serve as awareness messages.
“The puns are hardly accidental,” said the then Mumbai Police Commissioner Ahmed Javed in an interview to The Hindu newspaper on his department’s social media venture. “We were dwelling on having a social media presence since the last three to four months before things fell into place and it just took off. Since Day One, the idea has been to ensure speedy, transparent and positive interaction with the people.”
Javed says,’ there were apprehensions as to how the Twitter account would be received, but we have been getting only appreciation and messages of thanks.”
Raheel Khursheed, who heads news, politics and government for Twitter India, said the practice of giving a humorous slant to serious messages was a major factor in the popularity of the Mumbai Police Twitter handles. “It’s heartening to see the Mumbai police using the medium with humour to humanize their presence, and have serious conversations in a way that the audience understands,” Khursheed told The Hindu.
The team asserts that humor was always part of the plan. The buzz word is ‘positivity’, the team says: be it tweeting or responding to people who reach out.
Apart from Javed, the Mumbai police social media core team comprises of Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Deven Bharti, then Deputy Commissioner of Police (Detection) Dhananjay Kulkarni, and Assistant Police Inspector Ashwini Koli of the Web Development Cell, along with social media consultants Sunchika Pandey, Ritwick Maindargi and Amyn Ghadiali. There are eight others who monitor the tweets Mumbai Police are tagged in.
“It’s a team effort,” says Pandey. When asked whose brainchild a particular tweet is, they answer in chorus, “All of us.” The themes, Pandey says, are decided in advance, and include women’s safety, traffic rules and other law &order issues. “It is a continuous process. We get together every day and decide the theme for the week, and discuss how best to tweet the theme. Several tweets are discussed and the best ones are approved.”
The ‘Chat with CP’ initiative earlier in January was also a big hit, the team says. “It was the first such initiative in the country,” Ghadiali points out.
The social team, however, also has a serious function to take care of: every complaint has to be responded to. “As soon as we get a complaint, we contact the person, get as many details about the offence, and direct it to the concerned police station, with instructions to take quick action. We then check with the police station about the action taken,” Bharti says, who was on Twitter even before the accounts were launched.
Because Twitter is real-time, the pressure of taking prompt action is immense. The team has been told not to respond to a complaint tweet unless action has actually been taken.
The Web Development Cell, headed by Koli, has the tedious responsibility of monitoring the content of each and every tweet. “It’s a 24×7 job,” an officer said. Pointing to Koli, Pandey says, “She is our go-to person for all things Twitter.” Koli responds, “I am just doing my job.”
Khursheed says, “For the Mumbai Police, responding promptly to complaints received via Twitter gives out a very good message. It is like telling people that you are willing to be transparent and accountable.”
Kulkarni says, “There are three teams working in shifts to ensure no tweet goes unnoticed.” He is also the Mumbai police spokesperson, and therefore the point person for police-public interaction. Much of his daily routine is to direct police stations to take action on tweets. In less than a month, the @CPMumbaiPolice account has close to 25,000 followers while @MumbaiPolice handle has over 31,400 followers.