Today, social media is gaining ground even in rural areas across India. To capitalize on the popularity of these platforms, the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Police, tasked with maintaining law and order in India’s most populous state, launched a first-of-its-kind scheme: leveraging WhatsApp for community policing.
Sharing how the UP Police is using WhatsApp, Director General of Police (DGP) OP Singh says, “Each of the 1,465 police stations in the state has its own WhatsApp group comprising the station house officers (SHOs). We also have a WhatsApp group, which includes all the district public relations officers (PROs) and social media cells, and another comprising all the district police chiefs, the Additional Director Generals (ADGs) and Inspector Generals (IGs). This has helped with quicker decision-making and the implementation of our initiatives.”
Today, the state has approximately 350,000 digital volunteers who are connected to members of the UP Police via WhatsApp.
These groups have allowed the police to connect with the community in meaningful ways. “Recently, a girl was lost in Etah district. This news was circulated on the volunteers’ WhatsApp group. A village pradhan (chief) who is a member in the group helped us get her back home,” says Rahul Srivastav, Additional Superintendent of Police Technical Services, who is also in charge of social media for the department.
The groups also help disprove false news and rumors. During the recent Lok Sabha elections, the UP Police launched a central WhatsApp number where people could send any poll-related rumor. A dedicated cell of the UP Police verified the news and sent back the authentic version. Between March 11, 2019 to May 23, 2019, a total of 2,372 messages were referred to this number.