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#Crime and Pun-ishment - How the @MumbaiPolice Are #Winning #Twitter

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Depending on where you are in the world, the relationship between the police and the public can range from admiration to indifference to sheer, unabashed hatred. Which variant you end up with depends on a number of factors, but it's fair to say that the way police present themselves on social media is becoming a more significant one.

There have been a few instances of police departments getting it very right, and very, very wrong. The Edinburgh police blew everyone's minds (and educated them) by deciding to use Lego for an awareness campaign on Twitter about burglary, whilst the NYPD landed themselves encouraging New York residents to share photos of themselves with officers under the #myNYPD hashtag, leading to an avalanche of images being shared which were distinctly unflattering, and often damning.


The Mumbai police department joined Twitter a few months ago, and since then they've been riffling through a series of awareness campaigns about a range of different subjects, from women's safety to traffic regulations to drugs. The constant? Puns. Some of them are pretty poorly conceived ('Have you "meth" us?), whilst others are actually pretty good ('Don't let "hash" give you a "tag".'), but the point isn't the quality of the wordplay, it's getting people's attention in a way that doesn't seem aggressively authoritarian, and has the added benefit of showing that they have a sense of humor about themselves.
It certainly seems to be working, if you look at any of the numerous tweets, it quickly becomes evident that users, local to Mumbai or otherwise, are both enjoying the campaign, and appreciating the message behind it, especially in the case of the drug-related material. Given that Indian police tend to have a pretty rocky relationship with the public, this is a big deal.
This is all the brainchild of Javed Ahmed, who became chief of Mumbai police department in September of last year. In a TV interview about the campaign, he said that he'd always been interested in social media, and wanted to demonstrate that police officers weren't all "flat-footed". The account has a modest following of just over 29,000, but it's growing rapidly.
Before this, the Mumbai police only trended on Twitter in the wake of 'moral policing' incidents, such as the mass hotel raid in August which saw the arrest of 40 couples, who were then verbally abused, and in some cases made to call their parents. 14 of the couples were booked for 'indecency'. Since then the department has made it clear that it will no longer tolerate officers using their power in such a way.
It's that kind of thing that makes Twitter the ideal place to demonstrate the new attitude, not only because it's where the department has previously been called out for moral policing, but also because that kind of heavy handed law enforcement represents a very old fashioned attitude. Using social media as the face of the Mumbai police shows everyone that they're doing their utmost to get with the times, quality of wordplay notwithstanding.




Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF


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#Crime and Pun-ishment - How the @MumbaiPolice Are #Winning #Twitter Reviewed by Callum Davies on Sunday, January 31, 2016 Rating: 5

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