While I was in Kolkata (Calcutta), India last week delivering a social media masterclass at the Confederation of Indian Industry Brand Conclave, several people told me about the remarkable use of Facebook by the Kolkata Traffic Police. Amazingly, as I write this, more than 22,000 people "like" the Kolkata Traffic Police Facebook page.
In a world where many are skeptical about social media, dismissing tools like Facebook as "for kids" the Kolkata Traffic Police serves citizens in the way they prefer.
What's the traffic status?
The the Kolkata Traffic Police Facebook page includes traffic status updates such as "Traffic along R B Connector & P C Connector are heavy due to water logging" together with detailed reports posted as photos. This one had 119 "likes" and 46 comments such as: "immensely helpful.. :) Thanks a ton KTP" and "This is very proactive. Thank you, Kolkata Traffic Police!"
Got a traffic violation complaint?
In real-time, citizens can use the page to lodge complaints on the page and the police will follow up. Many such complaints are regarding the widespread problem of taxi drivers' refusal of certain fares. With Facebook, a complaint is lodged (people upload photo and video evidence to Facebook) and the police follow up with the result of the inquiry.
For example, this was posted by the police a few hours prior to me writing this post: "@Yagnish Rathi......as per your facebook complaint regarding taxi refusal vide memo no F/B-1601 dated-24/09/12, this is to inform you that the driver of the cab (WB04E9027) has been prosecuted vide case no. pgTX00299/12. Thanks & regards."
This serves as a transparent way for the police to show the work they are doing and also publically calls out the offender if caught. And over time, as taxi drivers figure out what's going on, the problem should diminish.
I just love this real-time use of social media. So do the citizens of Kolkata. The effort serves as positive PR for the police.
Heck, if a police force can use Facebook at work, why are so many organizations still fearful and say "no"?