The Uttar Pradesh police, which for long has been perceived as one of the less inefficient state polices in the country, has completely changed its image in the last couple of years by proactively using social media platforms to prevent and control crimes by reaching out to the common citizens who cannot or do not want to physically go to a police station to report a crime. With its proactive approach towards adapting the social media to help the common man, it has left far behind the “cosmopolitan” police forces like that of Delhi and Mumbai who were the first to adopt social media, but have not been able to strengthen the move.

UP police officials who are a part of this change said that since UP is the largest state of the country, with UP Police being the largest police force of the world, a need was felt for an IT based grievance redressal mechanism in addition to the conventional machinery to engage and enhance the dialogue with citizens and make best use of the organisation’s limited resources.

Rahul Srivastava, additional SP and Public Relations Officer (PRO) to the DGP and the man who mans the popular Twitter handle “Upcoprahul”, said that apart from helping the people, the “Twitter Seva” has also helped the police department. “It enabled us to enhance the climate of safety and security 24×7. Now citizens can have directly access to senior officers and the DGP Office with a few strokes of the keypad and when an instant acknowledgement of their problem is done by the concerned Twitter handle, it assures them that the police has taken cognisance of their problem”, Srivastava told The Sunday Guardian.

The newly appointed Director General of Police (DGP) Sulkhan Singh, who last week called for a presentation by the department officials on how the “Twitter Seva” was performing, said that the department was working on strengthening its presence in the social media so that more and more people can reach out to the police. “It is essential and we should continue this work by attending to the grievance of the public through social media and strengthen it,” Singh said.

There are 327 police officials who handle the social media cells all over the state, apart from the officials who monitor the cells in 75 districts.

Similarly, Inspector General of Police, Sanjay Singhal, one of the key men behind the ongoing effort, who is presently posted as Assistant to DGP Sulkhan Singh and monitors the social media cells, said that using Twitter had also led to saving of time of both the complainant and the police force. “It is the least time consuming grievance redressal mechanism that has been rolled out in the state. The complainant does not have to personally meet or talk to any officer which saves considerable time of the complainant as well as the officers. It also saves money as they do not have to personally go to the police station,” Singhal told The Sunday Guardian.

According to Srivastava, there are 327 police officials who handle the social media cells all over the state, including social media cell for traffic police, Government Railway Police (GRP), Special Task Force (STF)  and Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), apart from the officials who monitor the cells in their respective 75 districts.

“Every district, range, zone of UP has got a specific Twitter handle where public can freely lodge their complaints. We also operate Twitter handles of the directorate of Traffic Police Lucknow, as well as separate handles of SP traffic of 16 important districts of UP. They have enabled the public to freely lodge their traffic related complaints. All taken together, UP Police has rolled out 122 verified twitter handles which work seamlessly in an automated manner and the DGP Headquarters monitors the entire initiative 24×7,” he said.

Srivastava said that a lot of efforts was put in to making sure that the implementation of this project did not falter. “To have the desired implementation, a 24×7 social media cell has been created at the DGP Headquarters, for which the selection of personnel was done through an open process of interview, seeking nominations from across the state. The criteria of having a digital footprint and experience was made mandatory for the candidates who were screened for the interview. This led to the best of people from the state to be selected for the DGP Headquarters team. A circular from DGP UP was specifically issued for creation of similar social media cells at District, Range, Zone as well as traffic police handles. The same criterion of having technical expertise was adhered to while selecting officials to monitor social media cells throughout the state. At the district, range and zone level, public relations officer of the officers concerned was made the incharge of social media cells. In Lucknow, the PRO to the DGP was entrusted with the task of running the social media cell of DGP HQs and supervise the functioning of all Twitter handles. The PRO reports on a daily basis to ‘Assistant to DGP’ who monitors the entire operations and issues directions to officers in important matters. Important matters are daily brought to the attention of DGP UP, directions sought and action is taken accordingly,” he said.

Rahul Srivastava, additional SP and PRO to DGP.

To make sure that there is clarity, uniformity of nomenclature was maintained while creating Twitter handles of each unit, whereby a standard format of districts’ name followed by suffix “Police” was adopted like @Noidapolice @Ghaziabadpolice, @Lucknowpolice etc.

According to IG Sanjay Singhal, “Twitter Seva” has acted as a force multiplier for the state police. “We have a shortage of police personnel and in this context, ‘Twitter Seva’ has helped us immensely as citizens are now acting as eyes and ears of the police by passing on crucial information through Twitter, which has led to improvement in policing. It has also improved our credibility by several notches as due to Twitter, we are able to give quick and effective resolution of grievances. We have a huge number of followers and this also gives us the power to be our own broadcaster and be able to reach out to people directly in case of any emergency, crisis, confusion or rumour,” Singhal said.

To strengthen its social media outreach, the UP police first shares the important news on the Twitter handle of UP Police as its adds to the credibility of the news and often seeks help of the citizens to trace kids and missing persons and identify perpetrators behind criminal acts.

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