PESHAWAR -- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Police are using social media to more effectively interact with the public and pursue terrorists and criminals.
Police officers in the province now have a number of Twitter and Facebook accounts and WhatsApp groups to represent the force and share information with the public. Those social media allow the public to provide tips, ask questions or lodge complaints.
"We have reorganised the media wing of the KP Police by appointing one officer to exclusively head the social media section," KP Inspector General of Police (IGP) Salahuddin Khan Mehsud told Pakistan Forward.
A senior superintendent of police (SSP) is the overall head of media for the KP Police, while a superintendent of police (SP) heads the social media wing, according to Mehsud.
Lines of communication open
Mehsud said he has been receiving a number of complaints and information about criminals and terrorists on WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and SMS that he immediately forwards to relevant police officers.
"All regional and district police officers have special numbers to receive information and complaints through SMS and WhatsApp messages and act on [tips] immediately," he said.
A Police Access Service, which allows citizens to contact the police through SMS, has been set up at the central police headquarters for the entire province. Each district has separate services to receive complaints and information from the public, he said.
The inspector general himself is available to the general public through his Twitter account, @SalahuddinKhanM, which opened in August.
The KP Police have their own official Facebook page too.
Communicating with the public
SSP Operations Peshawar Sajjad Khan, who has been updating citizens through Facebook and several WhatsApp groups, says he is beginning to use Twitter as well.
Twitter lets residents of Peshawar "send their queries and information about anything happening in the city", Khan told Pakistan Forward.
The police and the public together can improve the law and order situation, which is why officers are not only interacting with the people through social media but also visiting localities in person, he said.
"We have circulated our cellular phone numbers so the general public [can send] any information about any crime or send questions about the law and order situation," said Khan.
Regional and district police officers throughout the province are actively using Twitter and Facebook for information and feedback.
"The [social] media cell of the KP Police promptly replies to any comment, question or information by the public about any mishap or threat and communicates it to the [relevant] regional and district police officer for immediate action," SP Waqar Ahmad, head of the social media wing of the KP Police, told Pakistan Forward.
"It keeps the public updated about various issues related to police and improves ties with the people," he said.
"A proper [social] media cell has been set up with the appointment of a senior police officer to head it for the first time," KP Police SSP Sohaib Ashraf told Pakistan Forward.
Junior police officers appointed as public relations officers at the district and regional level are more effectively using social media to improve the relationship between the public and police, which is key to better law and order, he said.
Media outreach, accessibility
The KP Police WhatsApp groups are enabling better communication with the media.
"We have senior and junior police officers in a few of our groups who respond immediately and issue their version [of events] so that nothing is reported incorrectly about a terrorist or criminal incident," Qaisar Khan, administrator of one of the WhatsApp groups and general secretary of the Crimes and Terrorism Journalists Forum, told Pakistan Forward.
The groups sometimes report on police wrongdoing, prompting action by senior officers, he said.
The IGP and other senior officers who were previously inaccessible to the general public can be reached through SMS, WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook, said a resident of Peshawar.
The resident, who spoke to Pakistan Forward on condition of anonymity, said he sought help from the KP Police recently.
His family "received extortion threats from militants via phone after which I sent SMS and WhatsApp message to the IGP who promptly responded".
Officers from the regular police and the provincial Counter Terrorism Department (CTD), on the orders of the IGP, collected his phone data, he said.
"The local police are very co-operative and respond whenever we need their help regarding security," he added.