The controversy over columnist Shobhaa De’s fat-shaming of a policeman over Twitter has put the focus on the Mumbai Police’s social media cell, which won praise for a smart riposte to her gaffe.
New to social media (its Twitter account was launched in December 2015), Mumbai Police have already created a buzz with their online campaigns and traffic advisories. And often the responses are laced with humour and panache. It has 1.7 million followers on Twitter.
Earlier this week, De tweeted a photo of a fat policeman with the caption, ‘heavy police bandobast in Mumbai today’, referring to security arrangements for the city’s civic elections.
The Mumbai Police tweeted back that they got the pun but that the policeman was not one of theirs, finishing the tweet with a jibe that they expected better from a responsible citizen like her.
Its Twitter account is operated by a group of police officers and an online agency, Hat media, which helps them with content and creative campaigns. The team’s main brain comprises Deven Bharti, joint commissioner of law and order, assistant police inspector Ashwini Koli of the Web Development Cell and Hat media’s Sunchika Pandey.
“At any given time, there are six others who monitor the tweets Mumbai Police are tagged (to). A traffic police officer is also stationed as many complaints are traffic related,” said Pandey.
When asked about De’s post and the reaction of Twitter, Pandey said, “Senior officers felt that somebody of De’s stature should have been responsible.
“Before the tweet, the Mumbai policemen were working for 40 hours relentlessly to ensure that the election proceedings are carried smoothly.”
The social media’s ‘virtual control room’ is at the Mumbai Police headquarters in South Mumbai where officers armed with laptops and desktops trawl the internet for information and surveillance. Pandey and the team get together regularly to decide on campaigns, graphics and design. These are then sent to police commissioner Datta Padsalgikar for approval.
The other part of the social media cell is to react to tweets that tag Mumbai Police.
“It is like a two way communication process for us. We get to know a lot of information from people and we too can reach out to them. Our CCTV cameras and policemen cannot reach everywhere and hence this medium provides us with lot of inputs,” said Bharti said.
“Everyone is not well verse with the complaint proceedings and our team helps them out.”