I met a Police constable while traveling from Mandi to Manali, who told me ‘n’ number of things about Facebook and how it helps to stay connected, especially with Mandi Police. I took him as a first time FB user, and ignored him.
He was a Police constable and he was showering incessant praise on his officer, SP Mandi, which rarely happens in the government sector.
Few days later, I saw someone sharing pictures on FB, hundreds of bikers were lined up on the NH-21 Highway near Mandi and I was surprised to read the caption, which said, “Mass Awareness Camp.”
Those who have gone to Manali/Leh or Kullu during summers know what I am talking about, the Punjabi ‘hell’ riders, who can surely make your life hell on the road with their inhuman riding tactics.
However, that photo belonged to Mandi Police’s Facebook page.
It was time to dig deep and that lead to me an amazing finding. I met an engineer turned IPS Officer.
There is a page on Facebook namely ‘Mandi Police on Facebook’. Surprisingly, the page is managed by SP Mandi, Abhishek Dular himself.
Here is the short talk we had with SP Mandi, Abhishek Dular.
Police on Facebook, that too in Mandi, what purpose will it serve? Here in Himachal, Internet penetration is not high, who are your target audience?
The purpose is simple, to bridge the gap. There lies a huge gap between the public and the police, and for that matter between the public and government officials. The trust factor is missing somewhere and this Facebook page is just one of the various measures we are taking to bridge that gap. As far as Internet penetration is concerned, good deeds spread faster than one can imagine. If we are able to generate a sense of belonging then it doesn’t matter whether we are on Facebook or Orkut or Twitter because once people start spreading the word around, taking the responsibility, the concept will automatically grow out of the walls of Facebook.
How and when did the idea occur to you? Has it helped your department and the public?
Long ago I saw Delhi Traffic Police page on Facebook and I thought of doing the same. The page is doing good and if it can work in Delhi, it will work anywhere in the world. I wanted to give it a try. And to my surprise, our page has done quite well in six months. We started the page in March’12 and now we have close to 3500 followers and I am sure that we will cross 10k in the coming times for sure.
As far as helping the Police Department is concerned, we get to know what public wants from us. What all problems are they facing and how can we help them!
If there is problem of rash driving, people post their ideas, comments, photographs on our page.
If there is a theft, they seek details online.
If there is any problem related to hooliganism, people report it on our page, we direct our officers to take care of the matter.
That way, Mandi Police works efficiently considering the fact that we have limited resources and manpower.
I will say every citizen must be a cop, a social cop infact. Every citizen has to report any wrongdoing in his or her surroundings. Being a social cop doesn’t mean beating up someone or taking the law and order in your hands, it simply means to have a sense of belonging towards your village, town, city, country, and above all, your surroundings.
System will be what people are. If people are unresponsive, it will reflect in the system. If people are active, smart, and aware, system would have to catch up.
We have seen that along with the FB Page, you update the Police Blog as well. And every blogger knows updating the blog ‘everyday’ is a herculean job. Do you it on your own or have you employed someone to do that?
Indeed it is a tough job to update the blog and FB page everyday but that’s our duty. To keep the public informed because that’s what we are here for, for the service of public. As of now we haven’t hired anyone and I myself take care of these pages.
And I would like to add that we have started computer training of our cops and other staffers. We write about crime reports, accidents, and other important information on our blog.
The age of computer and Internet has arrived and it is here to stay. If we still remain immersed in our paper files, it will only bring sluggishness into the picture. Computer training is important and that’s what we do here. We train our people on computers. We conduct online tests so that each one of them knows handling computer on their own.
We have 420 computer trained cops and I have uploaded photograph of every one of them on Facebook.
Every new joinee has to undergo computer training before we absorb him in the force.
Old timers find it little difficult to learn the new technology, so we have put an age bar. Only those who are below 45 undergo these trainings. Of course, anyone who is willing to learn is always welcome, irrespective of their age.
Himachal Pradesh is a wonderful state; relatively less population, good literacy rate, low crime rate, and all these aspects help us to put up a good show.
How do you manage blogs and FB page on your own? Being the SP, I am sure you are busy with the other things.
Technology has really made things simple for us. Mobile is the new computer and I make use of my mobile, so it doesn’t matter if I am in the office or traveling. If I get any information worth sharing with the public, I do it from mobile.
We have trained few officers’ w.r.t FB and blogs, and once we grow in numbers, they can take over the charge.
And why restrict it to Police personnel only. We have this idea of involving public as well. We will monitor our pages, blogs, and short list ‘responsible’ citizens. We will conduct interviews, see who is fit for the job, and sooner or later, we will have public admin and managers for our Facebook page.
It has to be a community page.
We have limited manpower and without public participation, we will reach nowhere. Be it on the Facebook or in the real world.
What other measures have you taken to strengthen the Police Force?
We have CCTV cameras’ installed at 14 locations within the Mandi town. We have Doppler radars, alcosensors. We have hi-tec Police vans. We are just trying to make the best of the limited resources we have.
What about rudeness of Police Force? Many people avoid visiting police stations because of rude policemen.
System will be what people are and similarly, any organization, government or non government, will reflect the qualities of its leader. If the leader is high headed, rude, and arrogant, the group under him will be the same. If the leader is polite, understanding, and friendly, it should and it does reflect in the whole organization. I have given strict orders to my officers to not to misbehave.
We have uploaded photographs of our officers on Facebook with their contact numbers. My mobile number is already in the public domain. Now if someone misbehaves, he/she knows that he will not go unnoticed, people will complain and bring him/her to my notice.
Moreover, there has to be politeness in the system. If we trust each other, only then we can grow. We can’t live or grow in a system governed by fear. So I always request all my officers to be polite.
At the same time, I request the public to be polite and considerate. The feeling has to be mutual.
Do people know that they are dealing with SP on Facebook because I have seen people abusing Internet freedom and some even come up with their ministerial references on your page?
I don’t think they know who the admin of the page is. But that shouldn’t be given importance, even if it is a clerk, or a constable, or the SP as the admin, people should not misbehave. Out of fear we can produce fear only. It has got to be a mutual feeling of respect and understanding towards others’ opinion and viewpoint. We all are educated people and ‘educated’ people never misuse their freedom, even in the virtual world of Facebook.
What or rather who after you?
As I have already said, it’s not about the Police; it’s more about the public. So it doesn’t matter who is the SP or DC for that matter. I want it to become a self sustaining movement. I, we, and the society, all of us need social cops, responsible citizens. As long as I am here, I will ensure that the movement goes on. What happens after me is beyond my control. I just expect that the next person steps up and keeps the flame alive.
On a personal note, from engineering to Police how did that happen?
I graduated in the year 2003 from IIT Delhi. And even before I stepped inside IIT, I wanted to join the Police force. Four years at IIT strengthened my belief. In current scenario, you need power, power to make a change, to make an impact. Had I been an engineer, I would have been contributing towards the growth of my country, no doubt about that. But being an IPS helps me in a much better way to contribute.
I am no more a cop because my duty is to manage my men and the public. Its more about man management, so IPS has made me a manager at the same time, which otherwise would have required me to go for an MBA degree. I am managing 800 cops and 400 home guards and that’s all we have in the name of Police Force for the whole district.
And that’s where Facebook and Internet helps. It will help us to produce social cops. People who are willing to help the society by spreading awareness, both online and offline.
With that, SP shifts his focus to the huge LCD fixed on the wall, where 14 screens show every detail of activities happening within the Mandi town.
The ‘crusader’ gets back to his mission and I walk out as a happy man.