The Mumbai Police’s Twitter handles have become the Twitterati’s darling, thanks to humour and a quick turnaround on complaints. On Wednesday, around 9 am, a funny message started making the rounds on Twitter. “If you roll, we will weed you out,” it said. It garnered more than 2100 retweets and hundreds of memes and jokes. The tweet, sent from the Police Commissioner’s account, was part of the Mumbai Police’s drug awareness campaign and like many of the account’s previous tweets, it had people chuckling and reflecting. It went viral not only on Twitter, but also on Whatsapp and Facebook.
Humour could be the last thing people may associate with any police force, but over the last one month, the Mumbai Police has overcome that stereotype, emerging as a witty, smart one-liner spouting force on Twitter.
Since its Twitter debut, the Mumbai Police has fast become one of the most popular accounts on Twitter. The accounts are handled not only by police officers, but also by a bunch of young social media consultants.
“The puns are hardly accidental,” said Mumbai Police Commissioner Ahmad Javed. “We were working on having a social media presence for three to four months before things fell into place and it just took off. The idea has been to ensure speedy, transparent and positive interaction with the people.”
Mr 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 that the practice of giving a humorous slant to serious messages is a major factor in the popularity of the Mumbai Police’s Twitter handles. “It’s heartening to see the Mumbai Police using the medium with humour to humanise their presence, and have serious conversations in a way that the audience understands,” Mr Khursheed said.
The themes, social media consultant Sunchika Pandey says, are decided in advance, and include women’s safety, traffic rules and other law and 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.”
“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,” Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Deven Bharti said.
“It’s a 24x7 job,” an officer said. Pointing to Ms Koli, Ms Pandey says, “She is our go-to person for all things Twitter.” Ms Koli responds, “I am just doing my job.”
Mr 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.”
Deputy Commissioner of Police (Detection) Dhananjay Kulkarni says, “There are three teams working in shifts to ensure no tweet goes unnoticed.”
“We will soon be setting up a separate handle for the Traffic Police,” Mr Javed says. “We want more officers on Twitter, and also all officers of ACP rank and above should be on Twitter so that people can contact them.”