LIMA, Peru – The Peruvian National Police (PNP) is using the Twitter account @Policía Chévere (Cool Police), which was created by a PNP officer and has more than 28,000 followers, to communicate with the public.
The PNP has an official Twitter account with nearly 21,000 followers. But unlike @Policía Chévere, it doesn’t interact with users and doesn’t post comments or questions sent to @PoliciaPeru.
However, @Policía Chévere provides advice and recommendations on public security and responds to thousands of questions which its followers post about police procedures and other matters.
“Your partner hit you? Make sure it’s the first and only time. Report it / Driving license for dummies, how to get your license step by step / Here’s an app that gives you an idea of how much alcohol you have in your bloodstream when drinking” are some of the more than 14,000 tweets that @Policía Chévere has published since April of 2013, always in a friendly tone that builds trust among its followers.
Giancarlo Díaz Pardo, a 23-year-old PNP officer, created the account.
“I started the account [in April 2013] to highlight the work of the police and the good things that the force does because the public perception of the police doesn’t match the reality,” he said.
“Policía Chévere is a very valuable element that puts out a very positive image of the Peruvian National Police,” said Elsa Casas Sotomayor, a specialist in communication and social networks at the University of San Martín de Porres in Lima. “It’s become a milestone in the history of social networks at a national institutional level due to its success based on helping the public. It has undoubtedly shown the way that other state institutions that serve the public should follow.”
After almost a year of tweeting under the pseudonym of Policía Chévere without revealing his identity, Díaz today works in the PNP’s Public Relations Office, where he was reassigned in October after his Twitter success.
“I worked patrolling the streets of Lima with my unit when I created @Policía Chévere. My superiors always knew about it and I didn’t have any problems or pressure of any kind,” he added. “I liked the idea that for the public any officer could be the Policía Chévere, and not to take the credit just for myself for the good things people might think of me on Twitter.”
Staying anonymous helped to increase the popularity of @Policía Chévere until Díaz revealed his identity at a conference on social networking and public management, which he attended as a panelist, on April 15.
Social networks and public services
@Policía Chévere’s success is based on the natural, guiding role of the police officer transferred to a technological platform, according to journalist Juan Carlos Luján, a specialist in social networks and professor at the Peruvian University of Applied Sciences (UPC).
“@Policía Chévere is a next-generation police officer,” Luján said. “Thanks to the big impact he has had on the media and on Twitter users, he has been transferred, in a very savvy move, to the [communications department] of the PNP. After starting as a personal initiative, now @Policía Chévere is creating institutional content for the PNP, which will surely be something positive for an institution with such a poor image.”
Since April, @Policía Chévere has used the hashtag “#MapaDelictivo,” which informs the public as to where the majority of crimes occur in the country.
@Policía Chévere also helped locate 76-year-old Maximina Goicochea, who disappeared in Lima on April 30 and was found two days later thanks to retweeting the details of her disappearance.
Additionally, @Policía Chévere has caught the attention of other government institutions, including the National Electronic and Technological Regulation Office, which asked Díaz for assistance.
“The country has adopted an ‘Open Government’ initiative using social networks, which help the transparency, participation, and cooperation of the state with the citizen,” said Carlos Cabrera, director of the National Office on e-Government and Informatics.
Public advice given by experts through digital channels will expand into various state institutions, which will establish social media guidelines.
“The public’s pulse on many topics can be measured by using social networks,” Luján said. “You can even prevent criminal acts by giving warning through social networks. That’s why the authorities should use social networks as part of State policy. @Policía Chévere is the first successful attempt in this sense.”