The Serbian Ministry of Interior has recently opened its Facebook page, after Instagram and YouTube accounts.

Author: Aleksandar Bojovic (Politika)

Following suspects is the job usually reserved for the police, but the new technologies enabled citizens to follow the police, even though only on social networks.

The Serbian Ministry of Interior (MoI) has opened its official Facebook page, liked by more than 800 Facebook users in just one week. For now, followers of this page are mostly MoI employees, their family, and friends, but also citizens and journalists. The page is moderated by the MoI department for media and communications and according to them, MoI opened this page with a goal to improve its communication with the citizens by informing on most important police activities. The page already has several published stories on heroics, humane gestures and interesting hobbies of police officers.

“We are going to publish many stories and photos from the field in order to bring our everyday work closer to the citizens. Interesting videos will introduce the MoI organizational units, highlight the results of our work, and showcase the plans we have for the improvement of the Ministry. We will also publish all relevant service information”, the police source told us.

Sasa Djordjevic, a researcher in the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP), said for the “Politika” daily that the MoI Facebook page is a good thing and in line with modern trends of police work, especially for the development of the concept of community policing.

“Eight out of ten police departments in the USA use social media for communication with citizens, but also for investigations. Social networks proved to be useful communication tool in emergencies, as was shown during the violent protests in London in 2011, or the terrorist attack in Berlin last year. The importance of social media was also evident almost four years ago, during the six days of flooding in Serbia when more than half a million tweets concerning relevant information on the emergency were documented”, said Djordjevic.

According to the available data, there are 4.5 million Facebook users in Serbia, while the Internet traffic is continuously growing. More than 60% of the population of Serbia uses the Internet. This is the window of opportunity for the police to improve the communication with the citizens and increase the trust citizens have in it.

“It is still too soon to speak about the effects, bearing in mind that the police just opened its Facebook profile. It is yet unclear what will be the main strategy, who will be the primary target groups and on what kind of information will the MoI insist: service or promotional. Probably the most important question is how the police will engage citizens, since the Facebook is two-way communication platform. For now the page has a dozen posts, most of them with comments by other users, but unfortunately these comments are without any replies by the MoI. Furthermore, the promo video on the MoI Facebook home page is not fitting the police – the video should promote the values of community policing and the partnership between the police and citizens, not armored vehicles, rifles, shooting, marching, and helicopters. This approach is more suitable for military, not police”, Sasa Djordjevic said.

Recently opened Facebook page is not the first experience the MoI has had with social networks. The police already have its official Instagram account, followed by more than 12,000 people, with more than 500 photos and videos published. Furthermore, for a while now MoI also uses YouTube as a platform for communicating information in form of videos. Official YouTube channel of the MoI has more than 7,000 subscribers.

Deputy President of the Serbian Police Union (SSP), Mile Lazarevic, said that the MoI should be commended for engaging the world of interactive social networks.

“We think that the Ministry is finally starting to follow trends more closely. For some time now, many law enforcement agencies in the world, especially in the US, have recognized the advantages of direct communication with citizens, but also with its employees. Facebook is the platform where the majority of people spends a considerable amount of time each day which makes it a good channel for communicating important news, activities of the Ministry, but also notable acts of individual units and police officers”, said Lazarevic.

Our interviewee adds that the long-term experience the SSP has in communication with its members via social media, along with its growing membership, speaks volumes on the advantages of using social media by serious organizations, but also state institutions.

“After the YouTube channel, Instagram account, and the Facebook page, we believe that the next step the MoI will take is the development of the specific application for mobile devices”, concludes Mile Lazarevic.

Translation: Vladimir Erceg (BCSP)


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